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Angus McNae

Angus McNae - Wednesday 7th August 2013

Three Simple Lessons from the Glorious Goodwood Sectionals

The Turftrax sectional times at Glorious Goodwood have been the focus of my attention for the past few days.

I have concentrated on them because they take the guess work out of post-race analysis. They also serve to modernize the sport.

Many people do not like them but they would prefer to carry on guessing about how races have been run and what horses have actually achieved.

The savvy, often younger, punter does not want to guess and if we want to attract such people to the sport sectional times are vital.

In this day and age it is not good enough to say this sport is one where different opinions keep it vibrant and alive: No, no and no!

What we need is to deal with facts. It has got to be the way forward if we want to take this sport onwards in an ultra-competitive market.

Beware of the trap that says if horses are pulling hard the race is being run steadily:

Let’s have a look at the Nassau Stakes with the above statement in mind. The Nassau produced a shock result as the race was messy with trouble affecting a number of horses, and in particular, Sky Lantern who was unlucky.

(Click here to view the Turftrax sectional times on the Nassau Stakes)

The visual impression was that this race was steadily run - many people like to make this conclusion if horses in the race are seen to be pulling early on.

In fact the figures tell us that it was not run at a crawl. This is based on the sectional times and the fact that we must bear in mind that the early part of the race was run uphill.

Just Pretending led them through reasonable early splits. She took them through the first furlong and 192 yards in 24.72 seconds and then maintained an even gallop.

From the eight pole to the seven she clocked 12.34s and then 12.95s from the seven to the six. Thereafter as the field swept around the sharp right-hand bend between the six pole and the five pole the pace steadied as you would expect.

Once they straightened up and ran downhill the pace was honest and from the five furlong point to the two pole the field clocked sub 12-second furlongs.

The last two furlongs were not quite as fast as might have been expected, more evidence that this was not a steadily run race. The winner and the second came from the back and a 12.06s final furlong from Winsili was good, if not outstanding. 

Beware of the late headway merchants:

A horse can look as if it is making nice late headway in a race and runs straight into various notebooks and NagMe accounts.

Let’s be honest, we do not know whether a horse is actually running past legless opponents thereby gaining cheap yards or is genuinely flashing home. We can guess, but we need the figures to tell us what actually happened.

This leads me to the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and to the performance of Parbold. He finished third to Toormore and Outstrip and looked to be running very well but he did not really finish with a flourish as has been suggested.

(Click here to view the Turftrax sectional times for the Vintage Stakes)

Yes he completed the final three furlongs in decent splits but he was not doing anything more than the two horses who beat him. From the four-furlong pole to the winning post he was slower than Toomore at every split. It has rightly been pointed out to me that his final furlong was the second fastest in the race, but that's because he had been slower than the principles in the preceding three furlongs thereby saving energy for his final surge. Yes, he finished well, but he is not in the same league as the winner who was quicker than him at every point from the four pole and the visual impression created by his final furlong is deceptive. 

The first furlong is the most important and thus front running is a difficult art for a jockey

I wrote about this in the aftermath of the Sussex Stakes in the context of what Dawn Approach did in the first furlong compared to Toronado.

He ran that first furlong more than half a second quicker than Toronado and this was clearly significant in the context of the race.

It has been suggested to me that this first furlong was irrelevant because Dawn Approach was not out of his comfort zone in that first furlong.

In the context of the race it is irrefutable that in that first 220 yards Dawn Approach was expending energy that Toronado was saving. If Toronado had been forced to run half a second faster in that first furlong the result may have been different.

Another example of this came in the Lennox Stakes. Boom And Bust finished third to Garswood, having attempted to make all. It looked as if George Baker set a steady gallop in front, and that was certainly the case between the six pole and the four pole, but his first furlong was too quick at 11.93s from a standing start. Baker, keen to establish a lead, went hard to get to the front and then slowed things up before winding up the gallop from four out. In essence Baker got everything right for 95% of the race, but in this case the first furlong impacted on the last and he finished weakly in a final split of 13.06.

(Click here to view the Turftrax sectional times for the Lennox Stakes)

It just goes to show that on an undulating track front-running is a tough discipline and when you are travelling at 30mph on a thoroughbred, tenths of seconds matter even at the start!

These observations should be added to the others that I made earlier in the week and I hope you have found them informative and useful.

I have heard it said that sectional times and speed figures tell you nothing that the naked eye cannot alight upon.

This is palpable nonsense - the figures should be our bottom line when it comes to analysis, they should be our first port of call in race reading.

Yes they are open to interpretation, but they are founded in fact - what the eye picks up is merely founded in opinion and in this day and age that is not good enough to take this sport forward. 

 

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