Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands reviews the pick of the recent action at York and Windsor and has fancies in action at Goodwood and Sandown on Thursday.

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Never mind fights on racecourses, “FOBT Armageddon”, or Breakfast With The Stars, for some of us the biggest news story recently was that of Total Performance Data’s excellent sectional and striding coverage being rolled out at Bath and Chepstow.

The figures, which can be found free-of-charge on the Results Section of this site, now stand alongside those for other turf flat courses in Doncaster, Windsor and Lingfield, as well as the all-weather tracks at the last-named and at Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton.

We are in the early stages of understanding the significance of the striding data – other than that it is clear that sprinters and stayers typically have stride frequencies which are very different – but sectionals are another matter.

There is an efficient way in which to run a given course and distance – with the precise sectional times required being reliant on the conditions and the horses involved – and a departure from this will negatively impact a horse’s overall time. The efficiencies and inefficiencies of a horse’s performance are picked out with colour-coding on the “Sectional Times” tab of the results.

For instance, we can see that the shorter-distance races at Windsor on Monday were all run in a close-to-efficient manner, so what you see is what you get in those races (including an eye-catching 120 timefigure by my calculations for THE TIN MAN in the featured Listed Race).

But the longer-distance races were far more tactical, and AGROTERA’s closing sectionals of 10.9s, 10.8s and 11.4s were red hot in a race which started quite quickly but soon steadied. It is often best to treat the bare form of such races with suspicion, but Agrotera herself looks to have done very well indeed in coming from behind.

Those efficiency figures are summarised on the “Sectional Tools” tab, where all the principals in The Tin Man’s race get an “A” or even “A+” for running close to par and all the principals in Agrotera’s race get an “F” for running some way from it.

Arguably one of the more interesting performances at Windsor was in the opener, in which Come On Leicester ran super-efficiently to get a “A++” grading. Third-placed debutante IMPLICIT overdid things early, resulting in a “C” grading for efficiency, but showed the sort of speed that should be very effective at a modest level if she can be taught to settle.

The close-up comment on her performance notes not only that she “pulled hard in front” but that she had been “very keen to post”. An improvement in the latter could presage an improvement in the former and lead to an improvement all round for the filly.

Not all courses are as enlightened as Windsor, Bath, Chepstow and the others. One such is York, which regularly gets namechecked as one of the world’s greatest racetracks but which has had sectional timing in place only very briefly in its existence (fortunately, this coincided with Frankel’s magnificent win in the International Stakes).

As a result, anyone looking for a detailed sectional breakdown of performances at last week’s Dante Meeting needs to revert to taking times manually. This is not always worth the significant effort involved, but in this case I think it was.

In particular, it became apparent just how much of a late burn-up the Dante itself proved to be. The impressive winner, Roaring Lion, ran the last 3f in 33.85s by my reckoning, which was quicker than the high-class sprinter Harry Angel (34.20s) – that is not a misprint! – and the smart sprint handicappers George Bowen (34.05s) and El Astronaute (34.00s).

Indeed, it was the fastest winning sectional at the entire meeting until Koditime ducked under it with 33.80s on the final day, and that one was racing at less than half the Dante distance.

You may have your own interpretation of what this means. Mine is that Roaring Lion is a good – maybe a very good – horse (I have a 121 sectional rating on him), but that the Dante tested mile speed much more than it tested the kind of stamina needed to win a Derby at Epsom.

That Roaring Lion was so good at the former, but remains unproved at the latter – in conjunction with his peak cadence of 2.42 strides/second and his tendency to go left when at full tilt – persuades me to think that he is eminently opposable at Epsom on June 2nd. Given his attributes, it would be no surprise if he traded shorter in running than his current odds of around 7/1.

Manual sectionals were also needed when MUTAWAFFER made his debut at Ascot recently, but they again seemed worth the effort, for it was possible to determine that the son of Kodiac rattled home with a finishing speed of over 108% of his average race speed to finish fourth to the more experienced Blown By Wind.

On my figures, Mutawaffer was best in a race in which the three ahead of him look to have put up useful performances on the clock. There are some promising types, and plenty of unknowns, against Mutawaffer in the 1:30 at Goodwood on Thursday, but I will be disappointed if he is beaten this time.

At the risk of putting my eggs all in one basket, the aforementioned BLOWN BY WIND could also be worth a bet in the Listed National Stakes at Sandown later on Thursday (6:35). He has the best timefigure, and, as that Ascot race showed, acts on top of the ground (which is not a given with some of his rivals).

The concern is his draw in stall nine of nine, but it is generally less of a disadvantage to be drawn on the extreme than just off it (as you have horses on only one side of you) and I reckon his sharp sectional speed will get him to the front in good time.

Sectional Spotlight

Goodwood 13:30, 24 May 2018

Sandown 18:35, 24 May 2018

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