Sectional times play a much bigger role in other parts of the racing world than they do in Britain, though the likes of Total Performance Data and At The Races are doing their best to change that.
So it was that once the initial hullabaloo surrounding Winx’s sensational last-to-first victory in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes at Randwick on Saturday had subsided Australian racing enthusiasts wanted to know what the clock said about the wonder-mare’s performance, which had been beamed around the world, including in Britain by ATR.
There was one small problem: Winx’s timing chip malfunctioned so that no individual times were available for her, only for her rivals. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to extrapolate her splits from those of the horses around her, which showed that she got faster and faster as the race went on until near the end.
Winx ran her penultimate 200 metres in about 10.3s by my reckoning, which is around 70 km/h or 43.4 mph. That is shifting nearing the end of a 1400-metre race in which the mare had to make up for losing several lengths at the start. There were reports that her final 600 metres was the fastest ever at the track.
How did she do it? Well, further video analysis provides a strong clue. By slowing the footage it is possible to gauge how long Winx’s stride was and how quickly she was turning it over (speed is a direct function of the two).
Winx’s stride is long – around 7.44 metres (24.4 feet) early in the straight here – but it is her stride frequency, or cadence, which is most remarkable. She turned it over at a rate of 2.63 per second when really letting rip.
By comparison, most horses seem to operate at 2.40 or less: the top British sprinter Harry Angel peaked at 2.53 when sailing along in the lead at Royal Ascot. The hope is that the first official striding data will exist in Britain before long.
A long stride and a very fast gait is a lethal combination, with the latter meaning that Winx is capable of “gearing up” like a sprinter even though she runs entirely at longer distances these days.
Those sectionals suggest that Winx was quite a bit better than the bare result in the Warwick Stakes and very much deserving of her status as the best filly or mare in the world.
Sectional timing took another small step forward this Monday, when Sky Bet ran a book on “fastest furlong” and “fastest speed” for their Windsor Sprint Series Finale (www.attheraces.com/racecard/Windsor/21-August-2017/1850/). As can be seen, the joint-winners of the former were Tomily and Englishman, with 10.9s in the second furlong.
What is not shown is that Tomily (who was offered at 12/1 beforehand) was one of the two fastest horses on TPD sectionals previously this year, with a 10.3s furlong at Newcastle on 22 June.
This time, Tomily proved the saying “the race is not always to the swift” by dropping away to finish last! This was, nonetheless, an interesting exercise and has some potential for prompting interest in and understanding of the nuances of sectionals through the fun and possible profit of betting.
That rain-affected Windsor meeting was the last Monday evening one of the year at the track, which I, for one, find a bit depressing: whatever happened to the summer?!
It saw a debut of no small merit in the opener from the William Haggas-trained SOCIETY POWER ATR Tracker , with the slow-starting son of Society Rock running a remarkably fast 34.6s for the final 3f but just failing to hold the more experienced Snazzy Jazzy.
By way of comparison, the useful older horse Ice Age ran 2.44s faster overall but 2.1s slower for the same sectional in winning the Sprint Finale. Society Power looks a banker for a maiden and indeed could easily be Listed calibre on those splits.
Going back a couple of weeks, there was a decent sectional performance from fifth-placed FALSE ID ATR Tracker in a mile handicap at Wolverhampton on 11 August. An even early pace slackened plenty mid-race, as the TPD sectionals and ATR colour-coding show, and being out the back – which is where False ID could be found – was not the place to be.
His closing sectionals were the fastest in the field and suggest his time is near: he has been declared for the opener at Hamilton on Thursday.
Chelmsford City is not covered by TPD sectionals, but it is covered by ATR, whose on-screen clock helped to measure an outstanding performance at the course earlier this month.
He looked a bona-fide Group horse that day and gets the chance to prove the point in the Strensall Stakes at York on Saturday.