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Angus McNae

Angus McNae - Thursday 29th August 2013

Here’s four from York for you and one at 33-1

In his book Modern Pace Handicapping Tom Brohamer introduced the idea that every thoroughbred race contains races within it. In effect each race is made up of different sections, which can be analysed as separate entities to the whole. Importantly they can also be evaluated by the clock. A race can be split up into different races within a race and sectional times help us understand how a race was won or lost. A horse can win a race while still exhibiting a weakness within the internal splits, and this weakness can point to a future defeat in a race run under different circumstances. This in part explains why final-time analysis is fundamentally flawed.

A final time is merely a starting point for working out what happened in a race. How that final time was achieved is far more important and thus sectional times are vital to this sport. That we do not have them on a daily basis may be a function of cost, but if we want to understand horse racing properly and we want to take this sport forward we need to embrace sectional times and do it quickly.

At least Turftrax produce figures for the main meetings and I have had a look at the recent Ebor Meeting at York with a view to finding horses who may be worth considering in the future. In other words horses that have run a race within a race that can be described as a hidden effort in the context of the whole race. If you do not have a NagMe account yet, it is a useful tool to be reminded as to when these horses are running next.

Let’s start with the Ebor itself, which was a steadily run affair. Those held up were at a disadvantage, that much is obvious, but to simply say that horses held up in slowly-run races should be upgraded is a dangerous simplification.

What we need to know is what those horses actually did in the race. In the case of Sheikhzayedroad, we can be confident that he ran a big race.

Forget the race as a whole and let’s focus on this race as a contest within a race between the five pole and the three pole. Between these points he was the fastest horse in the race, successive splits of 11.12 seconds 11.74 and 11.61 show that he ran his race through these furlongs.

If he had a tank full of gas coming to the five pole it was virtually empty by the time he got to the two-furlong point.

This sprint finished him off; times of 12.22 and 13.20 through the final furlongs showed him slowing dramatically.

A more even distribution of his energy would have seen him finish closer, but in order to stay in touch Martin Lane used him up too soon in the race. Sheikhzayedroad could be worth backing next time out.

In America modern pace handicappers analyse turf horses in terms of finishing pace. They do this because they regard turf races as being steadily-run affairs where pace over the final quarter of a mile is vital. Of course they do this in contrast to dirt racing where early pace is king. If final quarter mile pace is to be effective, it needs to be delivered in the final stages of the race.

Kicking three or four furlongs out may look good to the naked eye, but it is not energy efficient and not mathematically effective. If a horse has a finishing kick, use it at the finish. This is relevant to King George River who ran in the six-furlong handicap won by Short Squeeze on the Friday of the meeting.

This horse is a very good performer on the all-weather and thus it is of no surprise that he ran well here at York. He has a bright turn of foot which has won him decent Polytrack races, but in this contest he was asked to quicken between the four and the three pole; between these points he posted a furlong of 11.05. This was too much too soon. Robert Tart is a good young rider, but this proactive move was ill-timed. King George River is entered in the Cambridgeshire and is 33-1 with William Hill for that event, he is worth backing each-way at that price to a small stake.

These two examples highlight hidden efforts where horses have run positive splits during a part of the race which has had a negative impact on their finishing position but has still highlighted their potential for success under different circumstances.

Sectional timings are excellent for also highlighting a horse who did not win but exhibited really good final quarter mile pace. The horse is Nurpur, who was fifth to Dutch Rose on the Thursday of the meeting.

Ryan Moore rode an almost perfect race and she finished the final two furlongs faster than any other horse. His two finishing splits were 11.53 and 12.02. In effect the final two furlong race within a race was won by Nurpur, and on another day an effort such as that will carry her into the winners’ enclosure. In a race run at a stronger gallop she would have won. Her liking for York means that she is one to be interested in back at the Knavesmire.

Brohamer tells us that the first two sectionals and the final one are the most important in every race and he also highlights the importance of horses distributing their energy evenly through a contest.

The Lowther Stakes was a strongly run affair won by Lucky Kristale, who managed to reserve energy during the first quarter of a mile, which served her well later on in the race.

In fact off a strong gallop she was slowest through the first two furlongs in 14.75 and 10.65. This reserve of energy then allowed her to win the race between the two pole and the one running the fastest split of 10.93. She beat Queen Catrine who ran very well in second place because her splits display that she did not run the race evenly.

For four of the six furlongs she was quicker than Lucky Kristale, including through the last furlong, but crucially she was weak in one part of the race and that was between the two and the one where she fired an 11.60 furlong.

A look at her splits show that she can run a much faster furlong than that, but in terms of energy distribution she was stepping on and off the gas which burned fuel at a greater rate than an evenly run affair would have done. Traditional analysis would have it that she paid for being too close to a strong gallop, but really she paid for not running her race evenly. I think she would be very interesting in the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket this autumn, a race that her trainer Charlie Hills has a good record in.

My final horse to put in your NagMe account given the sectional times at York is Sleeper King, who finished fourth to Haikbidiac on the Thursday of the meeting.

This horse has speed to burn and he fired three sub 11-second furlongs in this six furlong race. Splits of 10.11 10.74 10.97 are impressive and it is possible that this horse is a five-furlong sprinter. Some have said that he was running on at the death, but in truth he was decelerating quickly and the fractions show that his main asset is speed. He is not a Group One horse, but he could be a very useful sprinter in the making.

These are just a few observations that I have made after the York meeting and should be read in accordance with my previous blog that analysed the big races at the meeting in terms of the Turftrax sectionals.

Tom Brohamer realized that Howard Sartin was right with his ‘cup of gas’ analogy, but he needed to know how that gas was used and where and why the tank ran dry.

Sectional times help us with this and as does our own realization that a race is not just a single entity, it is made up of complex components which need more than traditional analysis. Someone once told me there is an art to race reading. My response would be that there is no substance to that art without science to back it up. 

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