Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands outlines how TPD sectionals aided post-race analysis at the St Leger Festival at Doncaster and explains why Chantilly and Longchamp are similar tracks so connections shouldn’t be discouraged from running a horse in this year’s Arc because of the venue.

  • Wednesday 20 September
  • Blog
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The prompt provision of Total Performance Data sectionals, displayed with full colour-coding on the ATR website shortly after each race, during the St Leger Festival at Doncaster last week was further evidence of how helpful such things can be to post-race analysis.

Was the pace of a given race fast, slow, or somewhere in between? How quickly did Capri finish in the St Leger (pretty quickly is the answer)? How efficiently did Shabaaby perform (very)? Which was the quickest furlong sectional of the week (10.6s, shared by a handful of horses over the four days)?

These and many more questions could be quickly and easily answered.

Some of those queries are more meaningful than others, and one aspect not yet mentioned has the potential to be particularly so if British racing ever embraces sectionals fully: namely “integrity”.

More than a few official enquiries over the years have revolved around whether horses have gone too quickly, or not quickly enough, in the early stages of a race. This has largely come down to visual guesswork to date, but that need not – and indeed should not – be the case.

For instance, had the Doncaster stewards enquired into whether or not Michael Hussey fulfilled his obligation to “obtain the best possible placing” on The Anvil in the St Leger they could have pointed to the fact that the horse ran a quarter of a mile in just 23.2s early in the race in opening up a wide lead, and that the next-fastest such sectional on the round course over all four days was a tepid 24.6s.

That is a difference of nearly 10 lengths. Over just two furlongs!

Such facts are incontrovertible, and incontrovertible facts are the basis of good regulation. Over time, an even fuller picture could be built up to assist in the proper running of the sport, including in situations which are less cut-and-dried than this one appeared to be.

In the meantime, for those looking for a couple of horses to take from Doncaster from a sectional point of view, I would recommend NOBLEMAN’S NEST (good overall time and even better closing sectionals in winning a Nursery on Wednesday) and TIGRE DU TERRE (long-striding juvenile who looked particularly unsuited by the slow early pace of the Listed race on Friday).

On another matter related to sectionals, some of the recent discussions regarding Cracksman’s possible participation in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on 1st October have left me puzzled.

I refer in particular to the idea that the colt would be a runner if the race were taking place at its traditional home of Longchamp, which is under repair, but remains a significant doubt because it will be at Chantilly instead.

The owners are entitled to run the horse where they wish, of course, for it is they – not you or I – who pay the bills. But some of the facts on which they base their decisions are fair game for public discussion.

I have surveyed many of Europe’s racecourses using Google Earth in order to establish the likely effect of inclines, declines and bends on overall times and sectionals, and I cannot see what the fuss is about.

Both Longchamp and Chantilly are right-handed tracks. The former’s home straight is about 550 metres long, while the latter’s is about 600 metres, though the home straight and “false” straight at Longchamp combined are more like 850 metres.

Against that, Chantilly rises 10 metres in the final 800 metres against Longchamp’s 1 metre. Longchamp is more demanding early in a 2400-metre contest, Chantilly is more demanding late. Both such courses end fractionally higher than they started.

The effect of all of those factors on overall times should be very similar granted the same conditions and quality of horses.

The old saying “horses for courses” has some validity, but the evidence is that Longchamp and Chantilly are really not all that dissimilar, especially for a colt adaptable enough to have run with distinction at Epsom, the Curragh and York already and to have won a Group 2 at Chantilly last time by a clear margin.

A recent spate of meetings on the all-weather at Newcastle reminds us that the winter action of the All-Weather Championships is just around the corner.

It is surely too much to hope that there will be another Enable – a winner at the course on her debut last November – on Friday’s card, but there look to be a couple of interesting betting opportunities in the 6f nurseries.

The first division, due off at 19:15, looks to be the weaker one, and GANGLAND is fancied to step forward enough to win it, having found the trip too short then the company too hot on his last two starts.

The gelding made a decent debut at this course and distance back in May and has been given a bit of a chance by the handicapper.

Gangland is trained by Richard Fahey, and LINA’S STAR was until being switched to David O’Meara after her most recent start, which was a promising third at the minimum trip at Carlisle despite being short of room.

She gets another try at 6f now, in a race due off at 19:45, and will surely go close if taking to the Tapeta.

Sectional Spotlight
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