Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands analyses the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish 1000 Guineas and has selections online for Wolverhampton on Thursday and Bath on Friday.

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Bad though sectional-timing enthusiasts have it in Britain – where the BHA has washed its hands of providing what many regard as a fundamental service – they at least have several courses with official figures to go at thanks to the joint venture between Total Performance Data and At The Races.

That can be contrasted with the situation in Ireland, where widespread sectional times were promised at the beginning of last year, but where sectionals have yet to appear in any form along with any explanation for this absence from the authorities.

As a result, last weekend’s first two Irish Classics – the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas – have to be analysed manually, though the superimposition of a live clock on the pictures by ATR assists greatly in this regard.

The resulting figures shed plenty of light on what might otherwise have been a couple of head-scratching results. It is possible, just about, to get by-furlong sectionals for the majority of both races, but the customary one at 3f out is straightforward and is produced below.

Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas, the Curragh, 26/05/2018

PosHorseOverallTo 3fFinal 3f3f FSUpgradeTfigSect Rtg
2U S NAVY FLAG99.38s61.00s38.38s97.1%9115124
3GUSTAV KLIMT99.62s61.50s38.12s98.0%6113119
Lead sects: 14.65s, 26.15s, 37.75s, 49.30s, 61.00s, 72.75s, 85.50s, 98.93s

Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas, the Curragh, 27/05/2018

PosHorseOverallTo 3fFinal 3f3f FSUpgradeTfigSect Rtg
1ALPHA CENTAURI98.71s63.65s35.06s105.6%5116121
2COULD IT BE LOVE98.99s61.75s37.24s99.7%2111113
5YULONG GOLD FAIRY99.55s63.70s35.85s104.1%2104106
6LIGHTENING QUICK99.58s63.95s35.63s104.8%3103106
Lead sects: ?, 26.80s, 38.25s, 49.95s, 61.75s, 73.75s, 85.45s, 98.71s

The fillies’ race was run in an overall time 0.22s quicker than the colts’ but wider analysis points to that, and a bit more besides, being down to somewhat quicker conditions on the Sunday than on the Saturday. My timefigures are 121 for Romanised (who ran comfortably the fastest of four races at a mile on the card) and 116 for Alpha Centauri.

But the ways in which those final times were arrived at were markedly different. All the principals in the Irish 2000 Guineas went faster than par – as shown by those low finishing speeds (the speed in the last 3f as a % of average race speed) – but only the runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas did.  

Those sectional upgrades result from the difference between a horse’s actual finishing speed % and the course-and-distance par, which I make about 102% in this instance. The further from par a horse performs, the bigger that upgrade.

We know that Romanised’s overall time was good, but the sectionals show that he ran more efficiently than his rivals and he gets just a small upgrade. Front-running U S Navy Flag, in particular, shaped better than the result and can be rated the best horse in the race by nearly a length.

A return to 7f, or perhaps 8f round a proper bend or two, would help U S Navy Flag to get home. There are significant sectional boosts for others, also: the bare form of the Irish 2000 Guineas may not seem especially strong, or reliable, but there look to have been several smart performers in there.

Meanwhile, peak efficiency in the fillies’ race was somewhere between Alpha Centauri (strong late run) and Could It Be Love (did a bit too much in front but ended up with a big advantage).

The former was a deserving winner, when all is said and done, and looks the one they all have to beat in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, though the Pouliches runner-up Coeur de Beaute (118 sectional rating) is another to be reckoned with there.

Even an all-weather fan like me would admit that the majority of the fare on that surface is modest at this time of year. But there are still winners to be found and striking a value bet may even be a shade easier with most people’s eyes elsewhere.

The 4:50 at Wolverhampton on Thursday is worth a second glance. It is just an ordinary Class 6 Handicap on the face of it, but it has attracted several pace-forcers and could go to one ridden more patiently.

The best candidate looks to be CALEDONIA LAIRD, who tracked some solid sectionals before winning readily in a good time at course and distance earlier in the month. He gets to go off 6 lb higher now but is still reasonably treated at his best and could well get a suitable set-up again.

The opposite sort of pace scenario may well unfold in the finale at Bath on Friday (due off at 9:00), in which the in-form KING CRIMSON threatens to get things his way up front.  

He set some red-hot sectionals at this course and distance on May 7th and managed to hold on by a diminishing margin, then found only Dapper Man too good for him at Ripon having overdone things mid-race (pair well clear).

Jockey Charles Bishop may not have a lot of say in exactly how efficiently King Crimson runs here but the gelding should not have to go overly hard to lead and is fancied to stay there against this opposition under these conditions.

Sectional Spotlight

Wolverhampton 16:50, 31 May 2018

Bath 21:00, 1 June 2018

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