Horseracing fans tend not to agree on very much – it is the difference of opinion that makes for betting, after all – but you would be hard-pushed to find anyone who thinks other than that this year’s two-year-old scene in Europe is especially exciting.
The unbeaten and brilliant Pinatubo is the star of the show, of course, but the unbeaten and not quite so brilliant (yet) pair of Earthlight and Mums Tipple might be division leaders in a “normal” year, and the unbeaten and decidedly smart Siskin, Pierre Lapin, Quadrilateral and Victor Ludorum are not far behind them. There is also the once-beaten but gifted French filly Khayzaraan to consider.
It is all teeing up nicely for the final weeks of the season and showdowns at Newmarket, Ascot, Longchamp, Leopardstown, and elsewhere, starting with the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at the first-named course this coming Saturday.
Now seems a good time to run the rule over the aforementioned from a sectional and striding point of view, then. What have these promising juveniles achieved, and what might they be expected to achieve?
The most important figures are those “Sect Rate” ones, which are my assessment of the horses’ time performances once overall time has been adjusted for the efficiency with which they were achieved.
Those “fin spd” numbers are the respective horses’ speeds in the final 3f as a % of their speed for the race overall and give a snapshot of that efficiency/inefficiency. Siskin’s and Victor Ludorum’s performances involved fast finishes and significant upgrades, the others less so.
Stride frequency (or “cadence”) measures were obtained by sophisticated video analysis, and are the maximum and minimum values by-section for the entire race.
While sectional ratings give us an advanced indication of how good a horse currently is, striding is associated with stamina (and some other features) and has particular relevance for the future.
In the vast majority of cases, a horse needs to be able to stride quickly (have a high “stride max”) to be a sprinter but be able to relax (have a low “stride min”) to stay beyond a mile.
These are my summaries of the above octet at this early stage of their careers.
PINATUBO: an outstanding two-year-old, whose wins at Goodwood and the Curragh have been backed up by the clock. However, his striding is not dissimilar to Too Darn Hot’s at a similar stage and raises doubts as to whether he will be better at a mile let alone stay beyond it.
MUMS TIPPLE: ran faster than any other 2-y-o at 6f at the York Ebor Meeting (in most cases much faster) when winning a Sales Race by a street. His striding is most often associated with a 7f performer.
SISKIN: has impressed less than some others on the clock (though his sectionals have been very useful). A wide range of stride speed should make him tactically versatile and likely to stay 7f, maybe a mile.
PIERRE LAPIN: his Mill Reef win was not the strongest form but was achieved in a good overall time and decent sectionals. That striding (along with his debut 2.36/2.22) offers encouragement that he will be a miler and not the sprinter many seem to think.
QUADRILATERAL: beat little, but by nine lengths and in a decidedly useful time, at Newbury. A mile may prove to be her limit.
VICTOR LUDORUM: perhaps more impressive on his debut at Longchamp (ran 21.88s for the last 400m) than last time, but very much looks a Group performer. Already at a mile, but shows speed and quite a high cadence.
KHAYZARAAN: quicker than Victor Ludorum last time on the same card – she made the running at a sound pace – but slightly worse than him after sectionals have been allowed for. Like him, she is by no means slow despite gaining both her wins at a mile.
It will be fascinating to see to what degree the above impressions survive the events of the next few weeks.
Podcasts can be lazy, over-long, and not withstand the close scrutiny to which written pieces are rightly subjected. But there are exceptions, and the Betting Podcast (@BettingPod on Twitter) is one.
The latest episode – episode 107 – is an interview with Will Duff Gordon, CEO of Total Performance Data, who have revolutionised sectionals and striding in this country in recent years and whose contextualised figures appear for free in the Results Section of this site.
Will not only gives some fascinating insight into TPD’s activities in the podcast, he provides eloquent testimony about the importance of data more widely in horseracing. It is well worth a listen.
On a related matter, Kevin Blake wrote persuasively about the potential for data relating to weights and sizes of horses (and jockeys) in his blog on these pages earlier this week.
The pros and cons have been well aired over the years, and it was with a view to getting a better understanding of the logistics, the opportunities, and the obstacles, that the Horseracing Bettors Forum, while I was still involved, sought – and ultimately were given – assurances by the BHA that a small-scale pilot project would be undertaken at an all-weather course last winter.
It is disappointing, therefore, to find that the BHA back-tracked, with a senior source there citing a lack of “industry support”.
When faced with a proposition that may, or may not, prove workable and advantageous, the sensible thing would seem to be to discover more about the matter, rather than to close down enquiry at the first opportunity.
But “sense” is a thing that is in short supply in British horseracing, not to mention in society more widely, at times. I hope the BHA will reconsider.