Sectional Spotlight

In his latest update Simon pinpoints two potentially smart juveniles to have made a recent debut on the all-weather, investigates the effect of headwind on run-style and has a selection for Newcastle's card on Thursday.

  • Wednesday 21 November
  • Blog
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No matter the time of year, there is always some all-weather racing going on – thank goodness – and the final two months in the calendar have earned a reputation for unveiling some unexpected stars of the future. Remember Enable and Without Parole, who both debuted at Newcastle in the final weeks, among others.

The two best candidates of late look to have been the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mubakker, who won well at Wolverhampton on November 1st, and the John Gosden-trained Dubai Warrior, who created quite a stir in victory at Chelmsford a week later.

Sectionals and striding data exist for Mubakker in the Results Section of this site, courtesy of Total Performance Data, and they suggest the son of Speightstown is both pretty good (I have a sectional rating of 105 on him, and he can surely build further on that) and possibly going to prove best at short of a mile.

They do not exist for Dubai Warrior but can be engineered with a bit of effort from video footage. I have the son of Dansili breaking 11.0s in the penultimate furlong – no mean feat – and running about 34.0s for the last three.

Along with a fairly useful overall time, that points to Dubai Warrior’s being a 106 colt after just one run. He would not need to be much better than that to be winning a listed race or going close in a lesser Group contest.

It also appears as if he has the stride signature of a good horse, and of one who will stay 10f and probably 12f. He quickened by lengthening – to over 26 feet – more than by increasing leg speed, which peaked at around 2.31 strides/second.

For what it’s worth, those figures are similar to a certain Masar at around the same stage, and he turned out to be OK!

There have been some remarkably slow times on the Tapeta surface at Newcastle recently, which, on closer inspection, can be attributed in part to the effect of headwinds.

Most obviously, the meeting on 23 October (when Turjomaan, among others, won) had the strongest Met Office wind reading (40 knots) I could find for any flat race meeting in Britain in 2018, and that wind was almost entirely into the runners’ faces (coming from the equivalent of 11:00 on a clock if midday is the finishing line).

This got me thinking about whether or not wind strength and direction leads to a bias in run styles, as is generally imagined.

It is self-evident that a horse at the front, running into a headwind, will be inconvenienced in one respect compared to those that get more shelter. But it is also possible that the same horse will get an easy lead as others leave it alone, and that could even be enough to negate that effect or more.

So, I considered the evidence, as best I could, and came up with the following.

Looking at handicaps only on the straight mile at Newcastle in 2018, and categorising wind strength and direction according to Met Office readings, I measured the % of Rivals Beaten by horses according to Timeform’s excellent Early Position Figures (which identify an early front-runner as “1”, a close-up horse as “2”, a mid-field runner as “3”, one further back than mid-field as “4”, and a horse in rear early as “5”).

“Headwind” was anything originating from between 10:30 and 1:30 on that aforementioned clock, “tailwind” was between 4:30 and 7:30, and “sidewind” was anything else. A “strong” wind was in excess of 10 knots according to Met Office readings and a “weak” one was 10 or under.

Front-runners do not generally have a good record at shorter distances at Newcastle, probably on account of the difficulties in judging pace on a straight course with quite a stiff finish. But this feature is indeed accentuated when there is a headwind, as those poor figures for EPF1 show when there is a wind into the runners’ faces.

Under such circumstances, mid-field or mid-to-rear has tended to be the best place to be. Interestingly, if intuitively, when the wind swings round so does the data, with a position in the front rank having fared better than par when there is a strong tailwind.

The effects are not large, but neither are the margins between victory and defeat in many flat races. It is certainly something for punters to bear in mind when betting in-running or considering whether their horse’s usual run style will suit the circumstances.


It should be well worth catching the maiden at 2:55 at Newcastle on Thursday, a 7-runner affair which features some well-bred types from good stables, including a Charlie Appleby-trained son of New Approach and the Oaks winner Dancing Rain, in Jalmoud.

He will probably have to be useful and pretty straight for his debut, however, to cope with RED CENTRE, who shaped really well when third to Cap Francais in a fast-time maiden at Haydock in September.

The John Gosden-trained son of Australia (hence the name, as “Red Centre” is what Australians call the heart of their country) is taken to land this intriguing contest.

Sectional Spotlight

Newcastle 14:55, 22 November 2018

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