Clock Watcher: Young Guns

Is that the time? Doesn't it fly when you're having fun? It's been a good while since the previous Clock Watcher episode so high time for another instalment. This time the focus is mainly on two-year-old races which might pan out well - or at least better than markets expect.

When pulling the relevant races from the database - those since 10th August 2020 - and ordering by the sum of Topspeed and our sectional upgrade figure, I was pleasantly surprised and at the same time irked that the top four to have run since recording their good number have all won their sole subsequent start.

Grist to the method mill maybe, but slim pickings unless of course you're one of that desperate band of netherworlders, the after-time police.

For the record, we'll cover the subsequent winners, and then have a squint at the quartet yet to go again; we might call those the 'destined to get beaten' group!

The First Four...

Top of the late summer pops was Dubai Honour, whose effort in narrow defeat at Chester behind an all-the-way winner was substantiated by both a good speed figure and a tidy sectional upgrade. [Click the image below to open a more pixel-perfect version]

We can see from the running lines (race position and distance behind the leader/in front) in the blue boxes to the left that State Of Bliss led all the way, and that at the middle (third) call point, which is the two furlong pole ('4-2' of that section, see data to the right of the blue boxes), Dubai Honour was just about four lengths back in fifth position.

He made up three-quarters of a length and two positions in the penultimate furlong (2-1) and all but a nose of the three lengths deficit from the trailblazing winner in the final (1-0) furlong.

The red filled boxes (in the lilac box to the right - confused?!) tell the tale of the finish: Dubai Honour's final furlong finishing speed percentage was 108.3 compared with the winner's 104.1.

Dubai Honour posted some impressive sectional timing figures when narrowly failing to catch Stat of Bliss at Chester

Next time out, and sent off 5/2 favourite for a similar race at Haydock on 26th September, Dubai Honour made no mistake. Alas, at time of writing there are still no sectional insights for that - or indeed any Racing TV - track. However, I'm given to understand this may begin to happen in the near future; Course Track, a company commissioned by Racecourse Media Group (and their TV channel, Racing TV), have been collecting the data for some time and the challenges they've faced in ensuring the integrity of that data may finally be in harness.

It is a difficult challenge, in fairness, and I sincerely hope that I - and many others - can stop whining and start consuming very soon!

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Stepping away from my dangerously worn out soapbox, while Dubai Honour's light is no longer under a bushel he does look the type to improve for a step up in trip; and, out of a Montjeu mare, his pedigree offers hope also.

Without going into fine detail, the other three subsequent winners were Indigo Girl, now unbeaten in two for John Gosden after landing the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster; La Barrosa, also unbeaten in two and also a winner in Pattern company since, the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby; and Rising Star, who led all the way to land a Kempton novice event. The last named may be the best chance of a price next time.

The Next Four...

To those yet to run since, and a likely kiss of death for them...

The '85' in the spreadsheet image above is Derab. Trained by John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, he recorded his number on debut when running up to the aforementioned La Barrosa. Waited with early, his final furlong time of 12.14 seconds on the Ascot incline was clear quickest.

We already know the early merit of that form - the third has also won since, and the fourth, and the 11th (at 125/1!) - and this lad has yet more expectation bestowed upon him as a result of his breeding: by Sea The Stars, he is out of the same mare, Concentric, as Enable!

[Again, click the image to view a clearer version - images containing numbers and text generally blur slightly when forced to a certain resolution]

 

Less obvious - let's face it, almost any two-year-old in training is less obvious than Derab - is Rival, a respectful third behind State Of Bliss and Dubai Honour at Chester. Drawn widest of all, Rival was five lengths off the speed at the half mile marker in that 7½ furlong contest, and closed up to finish best of the rest.

As well as Dubai Honour's impressive subsequent score, the fifth and eighth placed finishers have won their sole spins since giving the form a solid look.

Rival was due to run at Windsor this afternoon before that track got waterlogged. Expect to see him back on track soon.

The first of the brace of 81's belongs to King Zain, who was winning for the second time either side of a pair of Group 2 mild disappointments. The son of Kingman is out of a Dalakhani mare and may prove best at the far side of a mile; here he quickened well over seven and left his closest rivals eating sods in the last quarter mile.

This time the chart (below, click for pixel clarity) shows 'sectional time' by furlong so, of course, the lower the line the faster the time.

The black line is par, which relates that Lingfield seven furlong turf contests are often more quickly run early before slowing up late. This race, as can be seen, was not run like that: rather, it was steady until around the two furlong from home pole and then a sprint to the line.

I've included the second (Incorrigible, green line) and third (Gypsy Boy, mauve) so you can see how King Zain (maroon) matched the runner up before leaving that one behind in the last eighth of a mile. The third plodded on at the one pace and looks flattered as a result of his early position in a slowly run heat.

 

The last of the four yet to go again since their spreadsheet effort is Fools Rush In, by first-season sire sensation, Mehmas (see below, image copied from TheOwnerBreeder.com - click on the image to visit their site).

 

Trained by Tom Dascombe, he had a busy three and a half months where he racked up eight starts between the resumption and mid-September. During that time he was only outside the first four twice: in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot and a valuable sales contest at York. Winning, however, has proved elusive with a solitary score to show for his exertions.

In the Chester race flagged in the image above (you know the drill by now, click it for clarity), he suffered mild interference at the start and, though he closed the gap, was unable to recover against a pair of runners that were first and second almost throughout.

The winner has gone in again since and it will be interesting to see where next for Fools Rush In. Ostensibly exposed on a mark of 82, he could be freshened up by a short break and might be interesting in a straight track six furlong handicap.

Takeaways

The bird may have flown in large part with regard to the horses highlighted herein, sadly.

That said, Dubai Honour looks a colt of some promise and is ready for the step up to Pattern company, though a rating of 90 is probably tempting in the handicap context. Derab will also be fascinating to follow for all that he's unlikely to be a punters' pal.

Of the remainder, Rival is less exposed than King Zain and Fools Rush In; having been rained off today, he's entered in a valuable mile nursery at York on Saturday and that more stamina-testing track, off a mark of just 77, may play to the strengths of a horse doing his best work late around Chester's bullring (the winner of that Chester race is now rated 90, and the fifth-placed horse 82).

He'll need a few to come out to make the cut there but, wherever he next appears, he could be worth following.

But the big takeaway is that we might soon have the significant gaps in what may be termed 'official' sectional coverage plugged by the long-awaited publication of Racing TV sectional data. Fingers crossed, that will form part of the next edition of Clock Watcher.

Matt

Clock Watcher: Slow Slow Quick

A month has passed since the previous episode of Clock Watcher, so it's high time we had another rummage through the sectional archives for interesting morsels.

In this gripping instalment, I'll share two potentially hot races and, firstly, two progressive hold up types whose limit may not have been reached.

Feel The Chil

We start with the latter pair, and a horse so good they named her twice. Chil Chil is her name; she's a sprinter who has moved through the handicap ranks from an opening mark of 63 to her current peg of 94. Hold up horses who generally find a way to win, like this daughter of Exceed And Excel who has won four of her last six, can stay ahead of the handicapper for longer than most as a result of their run style.

Of course, the leaders don't always come back which is the perennial frustration of backing closers but, in the case of Andrew Balding's four-year-old, such irritations have thus far been kept to a minimum.

As can be seen from those races for which we have sectional data - that is, Ascot and the TPD courses - her most recent effort was comfortably her most impressive. Settled at the rear, she was still four-and-a-half lengths last after the first third of the six-furlong contest. Indeed, she remained last with a quarter mile to go, though only three lengths behind the leader at that juncture. Thereafter, Chil Chil finished much the best and was most of two lengths clear by the line.

 

Because it was a slowly run affair early - note the winner's red chart line is beneath the light grey 'par' line in the image below - Chil Chil had more energy to expend in the latter part of the race and finished well above par, albeit that there is limited confidence in a very small number of races in our sample at this track/trip.

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After a very steady (from a standing start) opening furlong, she then ran 11.78, 11.53, 11.30, 11.38, and 11.73 second furlongs. The final time of the race was unexceptional - though not slow either - but the addition of a 16 point upgrade (see the right hand side UP column) suggests this effort can be marked up considerably.

The handicapper obviously thought so, too, as he elevated her from 85 to 94 but there's at least a reasonable chance she's still hiding some of her light under that late charge bushel.

Omnivega's Too Late Charge

Talking of the charge of the late brigade - see what I did there? - let's discuss Omnivega. The David Simcock-trained four-year-old son of Siyouni ran in a mile and a half handicap on the same Ascot card as Chil Chil, but did not win. Instead, he rattled home late - too late - to be a never nearer fourth, beaten little more than a length.

The upgrade figures are chunky all round because the first half of the race was pretty steady; but look at that trio of red bars in the second half - and compare those against the trio of orange bars, representing the race sectional percentages, at the top.

 

 

Omnivega ran the last quarter mile a third of a second and more quicker than any of his eleven rivals and arguably should have won. He's been left on 90 by the handicapper, and retains a progressive profile after chalking up a hat-trick on the all-weather (check out that 60 (!) upgrade off a funereal early tempo at Lingers!).

 

Hot Race #1: Mohawk King For A Day?

The winner of a warm-looking Ascot juvenile maiden towards the end of July, Mohawk King, was making his debut for Richard Hannon and owner Isa Salman Al Khalifa. Slowly away, he sat quietly towards the rear before making up the two lengths deficit he'd conceded easily. It was quite hard work to finish the job off, mainly due to the tenacity of second-placed Churchill Bay, but finish it off he did and both he and the second look high class recruits.

Churchill Bay puts his credentials to the test once more on Tuesday at York in a six-furlong nursery: he will be the first of the first five home from this race to test their mettle on the Knavesmire this week. Mohawk King himself attempts to take another step forward when potentially contesting the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes on Thursday.

 

 

In third and fourth were a brace of Hamdan horses, Mayaas and Minzaal, both taking the eye. The latter, and his rider Tom Marquand, were slowest to react to the sudden quickening of the tempo but were closing well on the run to the line. Minzaal has since confirmed the promise of that effort by scoring with ease at Salisbury and, like Mohawk King, is entered in the Gimcrack. There was a length and a half between them in this Ascot race and that margin may narrow this time.

Mayaas, for his part, was only a couple of hundredths of a second slower than the winner through the last quarter mile and runs in a York nursery off 83 on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how he fares over that extra furlong and he's my idea of the most appealing bet from the Ascot to York quintet: his trainer, William Haggas, is a Yorkshireman exiled in Newmarket and he relishes Ebor week as much as any of his fellow county handlers. El Patron, fifth here, is also engaged in that contest.

Portrush Enables Prince to Dream Again

A month ago now, Portrush, who is Enable's half-sister by Frankel, made her second start. It is impossible for a filly with such an illustrious older sibling to enjoy a low-profile spin and so there was much focus on this second day at school after a very encouraging debut silver medal behind a good one at Newbury. Sent off the 11/10 favourite, Portrush was made to work for her victory, eventually coming home a neck in front of the Godolphin runner, White Mountain, with the 88-rated Tanita a further three-quarters of a length away in third.

That trio pulled six lengths clear of the other septet, whose subsequent 0-from-5 record can be ignored on account of them being essentially in a different (lower) division of the same race.

The sectionals show that the opening seven furlongs of this ten-furlong contest were even to slowly run, but mainly even, and that the closing three furlongs were very fast. Looking first at the chart below, note how the coloured sectional percentage lines follow the grey par line through the first half mile (to the 7-6 point) before diverging, markedly so from the 3-2 point.

That divergence is reflected in the orange and red colour bars in the inline result data for the first three home.

The time was decent if unspectacular intimating that these three distaffs have engines; the upgrade figures on top of those raw times suggest there is a good bit more to come from each of them.

Matt

Clock Watcher: Lessons from Harrovian

After an extended pandemic break, Clock Watcher is back! This semi-regular feature aims to highlight interesting performances from a sectional timing perspective. Before we dive into those noteworthy efforts, a quick recap to set the scene.

Sectional Recap

Sectional timing aims to tell us more about how a race was run by splitting it up into segments, or sections. Moreover, we can understand more about an individual horse's performances from these splits as well; and, by comparing with history - what we call 'par' - we can frame races and runs in a much broader historical context.

The idea is to note those horses who may have been inconvenienced either by the run of the race or how they themselves ran within it, and to 'mark up' such efforts for consideration in future. Such mark ups are one more piece of the puzzle: often they'll add little or nothing, but occasionally they are the significant differentiator. Our job as form detectives is to assimilate information from which to make value judgements. Sectional information is another piece of evidence to consider in the general form evaluation case, if you feel so inclined.

Thus, on the basis of a number of previous races over a given course and distance, we can have a reasonable idea of what the optimal energy expenditure might be. A marathon runner will look to run every one of the 26 and a bit miles in a very similar time because that is the way she uses her energy most efficiently and therefore runs her best time.

Because of the configuration of racecourses and races - standing start, bends, undulations, obstacles in jumps races - the shape of a par line will never be flat; instead it will have a curve that intrinsically accommodates all appropriate considerations. It will, in other words, enable us to gauge what happened in any given race against the body of directly relevant 'case law' that preceded it.

There is oodles more insight on how geegeez.co.uk publishes these data in our user guide, here.

What are we looking for?

What we are looking for might vary from race to race, situation to situation. But, more helpfully, two obvious things to spot are fast finishers and solid composite numbers.

Fast finishers are those runners whose closing splits, when compared to their overall time in percentage terms, were quicker. This is often called a finishing speed percentage (or FS%), and a high relative FS% implies a horse finished with more in the tank, more to give. That suggests he might go better next time.

Composite ratings are an attempt to consider FS% alongside the actual speed of a race. After all, if I walk the first 26 miles of a marathon over most of a day, my ability to run the last 385 yards will be far superior to even the best athlete who has run the previous 26 miles at world record pace. My finishing speed percentage will be massive but my overall time - and therefore any attempt at combining final time and finishing speed - will betray how easily I took things earlier on.

That's an outlandishly exaggerated example to emphasise the point that horse races are habitually run steadily and won by the runner with the best combination of track position and finishing speed. Furthermore, not only can we know through sectionals which horse(s) has/have the best finishing kick but we can also overlay that knowledge onto how we perceive today's race will set up.

A horse with a lightning kick may be severely compromised by a strong early gallop but could be a fantastic bet in a paceless heat.

Sectional Examples

Examples make everything more comprehensible, so let's look at a few events since racing returned post-lockdown.

Palace Pier / Pinatubo - St James's Palace Stakes

I'll begin with a fairly banal one - insofar as punting utility goes - but one that very well illustrates the two elements we seek, the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

This was the race in which Palace Pier announced himself on the big stage, charging past last year's champion juvenile, Pinatubo, and the controlling race leader, Wichita.

The three-part OMC (Opening, Midrace, Closing) sectionals image below shows the extent to which they quickened in the final quarter mile (the orange/red rectangles) with the upgrade column on the right hand side attempting to quantify how much more each might have been able to give.

The colour bar above the result table contains the 'race' sectionals: those of the race leader at the end of each section (in this case, at the six-furlong pole, the two-furlong pole, and the finish line). The bars inline are for each individual runner.

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This slightly more detailed five-part 'Call Points' view illustrates things further:

 

Here we can see that Palace Pier covered the final two furlongs in splits of 11.68 seconds and 11.71 seconds. That was partly a function of the (relatively) steady first three-quarters of the race but mainly it relates to his talent.

Pinatubo, for his part, has looked to me a slightly doubtful stayer at a mile, particularly in the context of his brilliant two-year-old form. He was quickest from four to one but couldn't quite see it out. A subsequent win in a seven-furlong Group 1 in France last time supports the theory, though not beyond reasonable doubt. The Breeders' Cup Mile, a race contested around a tight oval track where seven-furlong speed is ideal (think Expert Eye), looks a perfect target.

Palace Pier's Topspeed figure for this effort was 108 and relates to how quickly he got from the start to the finish. Alpine Star, the filly who won the Coronation Stakes over the same course and distance 35 minutes earlier, ran a far more even tempo and recorded a slightly faster overall time to be awarded a 110 Topspeed figure.

But Palace Pier's composite rating - a combination of Topspeed and our Upgrade of 23 - brings him to 131. Alpine Star's effort received no upgrade and therefore remains on 110.

Here's the rub: in a steadily-run race, a feature of both his runs this year, all evidence suggests Palace Pier would readily outpoint Alpine Star. But if it was likely to be more truly-run I'd be less bullish at the likely odds.

One of the main problems, as can be seen below, is that there remains - more than a year after RMG (the company in charge of Racing TV's racecourses' broadcast rights) first published data for a meeting at York - no publicly available sectional output for the roughly two-thirds of British tracks that they cover. I wish it wasn't this way, and I yearn for good news on this front soon.

A Spot of Revision for Harrovian

Another of the John Gosden phalanx of top-class equines is Harrovian, who caught the eye when winning in taking fashion at Doncaster over a mile and a quarter on 26th June. He, and second placed Archie Perkins, were almost five lengths clear of the third that day, a gap established exclusively in the final quarter mile.

I've included the 'by furlong' sectional percentage chart this time: this view helps to understand how a runner's energy was expended and can be compared to the par line - which is grey in this case due to the limited confidence afforded by only 73 races in the course and distance sample. Beneath the chart I've also included the OMC splits for Harrovian and Archie Perkins.

 

Note on the chart how the red and green lines, representing the selected runners, run close to the dark grey par line until half way (five out, 6-5 on the chart); and how they then extend away in the second half of the race. This tells us that the highlighted runners ran close to optimally (though a little slower in the first two furlongs (S-9, 9-8)) in the early stages before finishing well.

One of the reasons I chose this example is because both horses have again run in the same race since, Saturday's John Smith's Cup. Although there are no official sectionals for that race, they looked to go quite fast early (as might be expected for a 22-runner heritage handicap), which may not have suited either Archie or Harrovian.

Here is the Gosden runner's full form profile:

 

Compare that with his winning form profile, and with sectional data switched on (the box top left):

 

All three of his career wins have come at ten furlongs, on good to firm ground, and in small fields. Of the two of that trio for which we have sectional insight, both featured fast finishing fractions off even to slow earlier meters. I'll be very interested in Harrovian when he gets this kind of setup again.

 

Yarmouth Upgrades

There have been a few races of interest run at Yarmouth since the resumption. Its proximity to Newmarket is a factor in enticing very good horses, and here are two I think worthy of note.

The first of the pair was a juvenile on debut called Yazaman, who achieved the biggest geegeez upgrade figure of any horse since racing resumed (at the tracks covered by our data supplier, Total Performance Data). Ostensibly not much of a race, Yazaman was sent off 10/11 favourite in a field of four.

They went pedestrian fractions in the early part of the five furlong contest but then engaged turbo, as best as unraced juveniles can.

William Haggas's winner completed the last quarter mile in less than 21 seconds, which is really very fast indeed, especially for a juvenile debutant.

To some degree this is now ancient history, as Yazaman has run twice subsequently: first he was a gallant second in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot. Sent off 20/1 that day, the cat was subsequently out of the bag when he again ran up, at 6/1 this time, to Tactical in the Group 2 July Stakes at  Newmarket's big summer meeting.

He's rapid and a drop back to five should see him just about win in minor Pattern company.

On 4th July, another two-year-old, this time Ventura Tormenta trained by Richard Hannon, rocked up having been pitched in to none other than the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes on his debut. He ran a huge race there to be sixth, and had plenty in reserve when turning away Sidi Mansour and four others over six this day. As can be seen from the running lines below, Ventura controlled things throughout: an even opening quarter, a steady to slow middle quarter, and then a burst of acceleration and 'eat my dust'.

He didn't seem to get home on the July course over seven furlongs in Newmarket's Superlative Stakes but has since confirmed his class by winning the 6f Group 2 Prix Robert Papin last weekend. English-trained horses finished first and second there, French horses comprising the rest of the field, to affirm my (and many others', in point of fact) contention that French racing has lagging behind a little for a season and a half or so.

Second to Ventura Tormenta at Yarmouth, Sidi Mansour has run since and been beaten in a bigger field at Windsor. But, having covered the final half mile at the Norfolk track in the same time (46.70 seconds) as Sunday's Group 2 winner, he may go one better in a small field where he can put his pace to good use.

Looking Forward

There may be a case to answer from the after-time police regarding the above, even if a number of those highlighted have since been beaten and are suggested for another day. With no such subsequent form here is one more, at a slightly lower level, for the future.

The Yarmouth fillies' novice event won by Almareekh might work out all right: the winner has an entry at Doncaster on Saturday and the third, Viola, may run in a handicap at Redcar next Monday. But it is the fourth placed filly, Ice Sprite, who has made my tracker.

This was her second career start, and first of the season, and the William Haggas-trained daughter of Zoffany was a long way (15 lengths to be precise) behind the leader with half a mile to go. More materially, she was between three and six lengths behind the three fillies that eventually beat her at that same point.

 

As can be seen from the red bars in her result row, Ice Sprite made a big move between the four and the two, and ran the final quarter (24.01 seconds) quicker than all bar the winner (23.95 seconds). Eased off in the last fifty yards, each way backers may have felt miffed that she was beaten a diminishing neck for third; but she looks attractively rated off just 70 for a potential handicap tilt next time. With only two starts to her name, there are all sorts of reasons to believe she can do better in upcoming spins. She is entered in the 3.20 at Newmarket on Friday.

A Sectional Refresher

We are hopefully going to be hearing a lot more about sectional timing - more importantly, what sectional timing tells us about how horses performed and races were run - this season and beyond. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer a little refresher... to myself as much as anyone!

I, and Tony Keenan before me, have written about the subject and I'd encourage you to read those articles:

Why Sectionals Matter

What Is The Point of Sectional Timing in Horse Racing

For those who want to get stuck into the mechanics, I highly recommend Simon Rowlands' Introduction to Sectional Timing, which you can download here.

If you favour speaky over reading, the video below is part 'why sectionals' and part 'how it works round here' and includes the answer to the crucial question, "How do I switch it on in my geegeez setup?"

Secure a beverage and give it a peruse if you fancy...

Oh, and any questions, leave a comment below. If I don't know the answer (quite possible), I will try to find someone who does.

Matt

Clock Watcher: King of the SANaaDh?

After a short hiatus where, in truth, not much of note was happening across the courses our sectional data covers, Clock Watcher is back. In this week's instalment, I'll share the top performer in his Newcastle seven furlong peer group; a win machine who arguably ran her best race in recent defeat; and the first in a new sub-feature, Pick of the Pile, where we look at the top sectional performers over a specific course and distance.

Sanaadh a King of the Sand

We start with the outstanding performance of the week from a combo (time figure plus upgrade) perspective, that of Michael Wigham's Sanaadh in a valuable Class 2 handicap on Newcastle's straight track. The image below shows Sanaadh's performance (red line) against par (black line), with more detail in the result table beneath the graph. Waited with early, Sanaadh was a nine length last at the first call (five furlongs from home) and was still only 11th of 14 with a quarter mile to run; but from there he quickened up smartly - last two furlongs in 22.73 seconds - to record a narrow neck verdict.

Topspeed awarded him a rating of 77 to which a sectional upgrade of 18 is added (see right hand column in the results table), for a combo figure of 95. That is, by some margin, the biggest time/upgrade figure we've seen over Newcastle's seven furlong piste since TPD started tracking there 285 7f races ago.

Sanaadh's overall all-weather profile is rock solid but he looks a better horse on the straight track at Gosforth Park, where his record reads 141, the '4' being when given too much to do.

That's the nature of his hold up run style so there is always the chance of a frustrating 'should have won' effort; but there's little doubt about Sanaadh's ability. He's one to follow.

In his other all weather runs, he hung left at Wolverhampton on his sole try there, and was pulled up at Lingfield on his only spin there. He did also win at Kempton, so it might be that he just doesn't want to go left-handed - I'd be prepared to take that chance if he rocked up at Sunbury in the near future.

Agent Due More Fortune?

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When Christine Dunnett sent her then four-year-old mare, Agent Of Fortune, to the Newmarket Autumn Sales she must have felt that there was nothing more to be gained from the three-time winner of the previous year.

Nobody turned a hair as Gary Moore's hand waved the winning bid at a lowly 3,000 guineas, and six weeks later the 50-rated Agent lined up in a Classified Stakes at Lingfield for which she was sent off 7/4. Clearly the vibes were good - not 'arf - as that was the first leg of a December hat-trick.

January's five runs yielded another three wins, and February has added one further victory to the score sheet. With a remarkable seven wins on the board, and now rated 83, it would be reasonable to assume that Agent Of Fortune's winning has come to an end. But in fact there is an argument that her most recent spin, when third to Crimewave over a mile and a quarter at Lingfield, was her best yet.

Bred for a mile, this was her first attempt at a longer distance and she was ridden to get the trip, finishing with gusto to be a length and a quarter behind the winner. The image below shows the respective furlong-by-furlong distance behind the leader of the winner (Crimewave, red line) and Agent Of Fortune (violet line) and needs little explanation.

Her 22 upgrade figure is added to a Topspeed rating of 54 for a composite 76. Most effective when patiently ridden, she is drawn 10 of 14 tonight up in class and it might be that she has to wait until Saturday and an engagement at Lingfield before returning to winning ways if lining up there as well.

Regardless of tonight or Saturday or another day, it will be a shock to me if Agent Of Fortune doesn't add to her seven wins already this winter before the spring arrives. What a remarkable buy!

Pick of the Pile: Lingfield AW 6f

In the first of a new mini-feature, Pick of the Pile looks at the sectional/time ratings of all runners over a give course and distance. We start with the six furlong range at Lingfield, where the best performance was recorded in the 2017 All Weather Championships 3yo Conditions Stakes.

The William Haggas-trained Second Thought won six of his seven all weather starts, beaten only on his final run when narrowly failing to double his AW Finals tally, placing second over a mile.

The son of Kodiac came from a long way back in that 3yo Championship race, leaving those contesting a fast early pace (see top colour line for the race speed) and rattling past his rivals in the final furlong where he made up 3 1/2 lengths and five places.

 

The most noteworthy recent performance at this track and trip was produced by Harry's Bar, who quickened well off fair fractions on 15th February in a race which will become infamous for the very sad demise of the talented and extremely likeable Kachy. Harry is a tough and consistent all weather sprinter, his form string off turf reading 23111323131.

The Proximity Form column (Px) shows just how consistent with every dot being a green one. (For more on Proximity Form, check out page 40 in the latest version of the User Guide)

 

That's all for this edition of Clock Watcher. Tune in next week for more meritorious performances and sectional insights. In the meantime, if you've any questions, please do add a comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you.

Matt

Clock Watcher: Some Breeze from Wind

It's Wednesday and time for another edition of Clock Watcher, a weekly roundup of interesting performances from a sectional timing perspective. In focus this week is an impressive middle distance newcomer to the Nottinghamshire beach; a perfect example of upgrades in action; and an explanation of the concept of OMC. Plus, a new column in your Gold form denoting sectional upgrades. Woof!

We start with a couple of noteworthy efforts on a deeper-than-normal Southwell circuit last Thursday. While geegeez.co.uk eyes were on Forseti, one of our syndicate horses, who was recording a double at the track, clock watchers were treated to a brace of striking efforts for contrasting reasons.

One for the All 'Weather'

The first was in a three-runner Class 3 three-year-old handicap over a mile, where Forseti's stablemate at Mick Appleby's yard, Merryweather, was given a peach from the front by Ali Rawlinson. Where he'd been patient aboard Forseti half an hour earlier, riding our lad efficiently and coming through late, here he took ownership of the pace, dictating a pedestrian overture.

Thereafter, Rawlinson and his willing partner turned the screw, accelerating markedly in the final three furlongs. His Topspeed figure of 45 is moderate but an upgrade of a whopping 43 gives him a composite score of a more than useful 88. This is a fine illustration of how understanding how the race was run in a more objective, granular manner gives us a handle on what might have otherwise been considered a muddling affair.

The race time was unimpressive - 1.1 seconds slower than Forseti in the preceding contest - but the finishing effort of all three runners, most obviously the winner, was rapid. That final three furlongs was completed in 35.53 seconds, compared with 39.69 for Forseti's closing three-eighths.

On a perennially stamina-sapping strip at its most testing, direct comparisons may be unfair; nevertheless, Merryweather - who was completing a hat-trick for her owners, The Horse Watchers, the last two at Southwell - remains one to keep on side.

Wind Breezes By

The very next race was a cracker: three Southwell specialists - Blowing Dixie, Angel Lane and Azari - lined up, the first named sent off the strong 4/6 favourite (and about that price, if not shorter, in my book). As it transpired, Dixie had five-and-a-half lengths and more on his field... with the exception of fibresand firster, Calling The Wind.

A winner twice on the Chelmsford speedway for Sir Mark Prescott in 2018, the son of Authorized changed hands last summer for £32,000, heading to Richard Hughes's yard. He was entitled to need his debut spin for the barn at the very end of last year, but showed a ready alacrity for this marmite surface, breezing alongside Blowing Dixie before moving decisively ahead. Calling The Wind achieved a decent Topspeed of 64 to which is added a strong sectional upgrade of 31 for an impressive composite of 95. He will be very hard to beat over this course and distance in a similar pace setup: that is the fastest course and distance composite score in our database by a full five points.

A Claim to Fame?

Nothing much to note in the novice ranks last week, but there was a fascinating claimer run at Lingfield on Friday. The finish was contested by the 6/5 favourite, Lets Go Lucky, and 5/2 second market choice, Hong Kong Dragon. They finished in that order, the pair most of five lengths clear of the rest, and with the second looking a little unlucky in the run.

That was how the 'judges' saw it, too, with no fewer than eight claims made for the runner up, including his (now former) trainer, George Scott, and fellow handlers Tony Carroll and Mick Appleby - plus at least one twitter shrewdie. He was secured for the claiming tag of £5,000 by Gareth Maule, whose runners mostly race with Christian Williams.

What was interesting about this contest is that they went very quickly early before a war of attrition - the winner being the one who slowed down the least - in the final section.

The sectional percentage 'by furlong' chart shows how closely matched the two protagonists were:

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The red line is winner Lets Go Lucky, green is Hong Kong Dragon, and black is par, an expression of how to optimally run a race at this course and distance. Their composites are similar, with the winner getting a marginally higher speed rating and the runner-up a fractionally higher upgrade number. Both performed above expectation for the grade and it is a mystery - to me at least - how the second took eight claims where the winner took none!

What does it mean: OMC

Who doesn't love a bit of sectional jargon? (rhetorical)

And, as if there aren't enough new concepts and terms to get ones head around, we invented (at least) one more!

Say hello to OMC.

OMC stands for Opening, Midrace, Closing and is simply a means of splitting a race into a beginning, middle and end in order to better understand what happened and roughly when.

You can see from the trios of colour blobs above a chart how races have been run, and from the same colour blobs in the result itself (when the 'show sectionals' button has been clicked) how individual runners have divided their energies. Thus, the two claiming pugilists were involved in a race that was fast early, even in the middle and very slow late.

The notion of fast and slow in this context is based on the percentage of the race time spent in each section, compared with those percentages for all races run over the same course and distance.

This is important because it means we are not interested in the actual times. Rather, we are interested in the ratio of time spent in each part of the race, or section. Hopefully that makes some sort of sense because there's more.

The notion of fast and slow is also not a specific percentage but rather a comparison of the par percentage against this race's/runner's sectional percentage. So, in the claiming race example above, the O(pening) section had a sectional percentage of 101.9%. That is to say that it was completed pro rata in 101.9% of the overall race time; but that was fully 6% quicker as a sectional percentage than par for this course and distance, thus our algorithm deems it as FAST. [Remember that horses race from a standing start in the stalls and, thus, they need to go from 0 mph to their cruising speed, so we'd normally expect opening sections to be below 100%, depending on how long that opening section is.]

What you actually need to know

That's somewhere between obtuse and downright baffling for many, no doubt, so here's what you actually need to know.

If the blobs are green, a horse, or race (and its rider, or leaders) went evenly, using their energies sensibly across the spectrum of the distance.

Where the early blob is blue (slow), expect one or both of the later blobs to be orange/red (fast).

And vice versa: where early pace is fast (orange/red), as in the claimer example, expect the late sectional blob to be blue or possibly greenish.

Horses that finish fast are useful allies in subsequent races that look to be muddling in pace terms. Horses that can run evenly out back off faster than optimum tempos may be interesting closers in such pace setups, especially on the straight track at Newcastle. (These comments are mainly, though not exclusively, in relation to all weather racing).

A New Number on Gold

You've seen various references to upgrade figures in the above: they are the traceable heartbeat of sectional timing. They quantify objectively - notwithstanding that different scales of objectivity will find different numbers, as with xG in football - the extent to which a performance should be marked up.

There is no marking down with upgrades: a horse either ran efficiently, in which case it gets a zero, or it ran inefficiently. The less efficiently it ran, the bigger the upgrade figure.

Naturally, there are all sorts of nuances - such as horses that need to be ridden inefficiently (speedball frontrunners), but which can still win by making their rivals act even less optimally - which time and experience will help us figure out.

No data element, or group of data, is the panacea to solving the puzzle; but each new element enhances our understanding of the actors and our ability to quantify the value propositions before us. Sectional data, and upgrades, are clearly no different.

Here's how they look in your racecard once switched on, UP column right hand side:

And in the Full Form, this time with the 'Show Sectionals' option checked:

They also appear on the right of the Full Result a couple of days after the race, once we've received the information from our provider, Total Performance Data.

 

To switch sectional upgrade figures on, go to the Race Card Options section on your My Geegeez page, and check the box in the Ratings sub-section.

 

That's all for this week. I appreciate there's a lot to take in - for those who wish to - but the key is not necessarily to understand the mechanics; instead, focus on the utility: what is this stuff saying about what happened, and how does that inform me going forwards?

Often the answer is very little or nothing; frequently it is 'only' an empirical confirmation of that to which the peepers already alerted us; but occasionally these numbers switch us on to an effort far more positive than at first sight. That's the real juice.

By the end of the year, we'll all be more comfortable around these ideas, so take your time and dip your toe in when the urge takes you. Don't force it, no good comes of that. Oh, and please do ask questions. Here in the comments is best, so that other people might see the answers.

Thanks for reading, and good luck.

Matt

Clock Watcher: Keep Kaser Onside

Welcome to week three of the Clock Watcher feature, illustrating performances of interest from a sectional timing perspective. Geegeez Gold has a range of sectional data to assist curious bettors, including sectional percentages, finishing speed percentages, and running lines: we'll discuss the last named in more detail in this article. But first, a few races and runners whose efforts can be marked up from the bare ratings.

King Kaser A Keeper

The David Loughnane-trained Kaser is hardly a dark horse, having won five of his 15 - and three of his last five - all-weather starts, but the five-year-old still looks to be progressive based on the way he finished in his most recent victory. That one, like the other four, was achieved at Wolverhampton and, like three of the other quartet, over the extended nine furlongs.

A feature of this win, in a Class 3 handicap on 13th January, was his ability to quicken off a fairly steady gallop. Indeed that is the hallmark of all five of his wins, most notably in his penultimate run where he went from last to first in the final furlong and a half (making up more than six lengths off an even gallop!), an attribute which makes it hard for the handicapper to accurately peg his ability: since August last year he's won four times, starting off 75 then 78, 83 and 85. Now on a career high mark of 88 he may not be done yet, especially over that nine-and-a-half furlong range at Wolverhampton.

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Novice to note: Tommy De Vito

It was a quieter week on the novice stakes front, with no Waldkonig's nor even a Union about which to eulogise. Nevertheless, Tommy De Vito, no relation to Danny, caught the eye when sprinting away from his rivals over six furlongs on Newcastle's straight track.

The chart shows how closely matched he and second-placed Never Dark were through the middle of the race before Tommy, red line, opens up, his final furlong almost half a second quicker than the odds-on favourite (see individual times inline below chart).

This performance represented progress from his debut second, over the same course and distance, where he again made a big move off a slow pace two from home before flattening out a little in the final furlong. He should step forward again and it will be interesting to see where he heads next.

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What of Wanaasah?

Much was made of Wanaasah's all the way victory last Wednesday at Wolves, mainly because of the manner with which it was achieved. The running lines are unambiguous:

In this two mile race, we can see that Dylan Hogan was 16 lengths clear after half a mile (S-12 1,16). But the second horse, Fearless Warrior, was also clear of the third. Indeed, with a mile to go - 12-8 running lines - favourite Purdey's Gift was 47 lengths - FORTY-SEVEN - behind the leader.

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The issue here is that, although Hogan went reasonably quick in the first quarter of the race, he then steadied things up quite a bit, leaving enough in the tank to comfortably repel his never-sighted rivals.

Georgia Dobie deserves some credit for sitting somewhat closer to the leader; but the rest of the riders got a beasting from Hogan here, the third-placed horse finishing 16.5L (officially, more like 18 lengths) behind the winner.

Amid the all-too-predictable cries of "hang 'em out to dry" from the kangaroo courts of social media, it should be borne in mind that a) this was an apprentice race where, by definition, riders are inexperienced, and b) this was a most unconventional setup over a trip which probably requires more tactical awareness than shorter races.

I'm personally of the view that the winning jockey deserves praise for his enterprise, the second should be recognised for being alive to the situation, and the rest will learn from this contest. That, after all, is the main point of apprentice races.

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Follow Fizzy Feet's Foes

The 11th January, ten days ago, was a meeting for which the sectional data arrived to us a little tardily. Pity, as there were a couple of noteworthy sectional skirmishes on the Lingfield card that day, which are belatedly reviewed below.

First up, Fizzy Feet notched a good win in typical jump-and-run fashion. Representing the same Loughnane/Lowe/Hoyland connections as Kaser, Fizzy Feet dictated from the front and lasted out in this six-furlong Class 3 handicap. But the placed horses must be wondering what might have been as all of the second, fourth and fifth were given too much to do; again, in fairness, this was probably more about the Kingscote masterclass, bossing steady fractions and kicking at the right moment, than any major clangers in behind.

But each of Total Commitment, Lady Dancealot and Count Otto - perhaps even Second Collection - might have won this on another day. Third placed Typhoon Ten, under David Probert, was given what might be considered a slightly more optimal ride, the horse ultimately not good enough to either dictate the pace or quicken in the circumstances.

Count Otto has run once since, finishing runner up in a race he tried - uncharacteristically but as a result of it being paceless - to dominate from the start.

I'll be watching this cohort closely in the coming weeks.

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Silent May Be Golden, So Too Goring

On the same card, a Class 2 mile handicap went the way of Silent Attack, resisting the strong challenge of Goring. Bought for just £10,000 at the Ascot August sale last year, the ex-Godolphin seven-year-old picked up very nearly twelve grand for this score alone, a fine piece of opportunism by trainer Tony Carroll.

This time I've highlighted the early pace-setter, Red Mist (light blue line), who faded to a long last, as well as the winner (red line). Ben Curtis, runaway leader of the all-weather jockeys' championship, was always in the right place here: tracking the favourite in a length or two second, he took control before the quarter mile pole and readily held off the late-charging Goring.

Both Silent Attack and Goring look highly capable at this level when the early tempo is steady, as does third-placed Ultimate Avenue, who came from further back and could never really land a blow. The trio all recorded sub-22-second final quarters.

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What Does It Mean: Running Lines

A feature of every American formbook, as well as many others around the world, running lines in the UK have hitherto been confined to greyhound racing only. Historically, the main reason for that was the lack of availability of data. But Total Performance Data's accurate tracking of all horses' positions throughout a race has enabled us to display both the horse's race position and its distance behind the leader (or in front in the case of the race leader).

How running lines look on American racecards

How running lines look on American racecards

We could provide this information on a 'by furlong' basis, but have instead adopted an American style 'points of call' (or POC) approach. This breaks races into five sections, the first of which always begins at the start of the race and the last of which always ends at the finish line. Unlike American POC, where there is more focus on the home straight - something which largely relates to the concentration of race distances of around a mile and shorter - we have elected to divide the sections somewhat more evenly, as can be seen from the table below.

What do running lines tell us? They can tell us things like run style preferences, or how much ground a horse made up and, approximately, when. They can help us piece together a pace map. They can help us better understand, largely at a glance, what happened to a horse in a race. Of course, they lack nuance with regards to things like trouble in running or wide trips, but so too does any data-driven snapshot approach. If you want the real fine detail, watch the replays! [But even then, don't trust your eyes exclusively; rather, corroborate/refute the visuals with the data]

Here's an example of a horse running today with a pronounced run style: Warrior's Valley is a one-dimensional speedball. He wants to get out first and try to stay in front. On days when the race lacks pace contention he has his best chance, all other things being equal. He has stall one this afternoon, and only one other likely pace horse; as he slowly drops down the weights his day ought to be close when he gets the run of things.Perhaps it might be today.

 

With Geegeez Gold running lines, hovering over the performance in question reveals more 'traditional' information. Here's an example, taken from Warrior's Valley's run on 21st December 2019. The blue box tells us the jockey, position/field size, distance won/beaten, winner/second, [odds], weight carried, equipment, and in-running comment.

 

As a completely new convention to most, it may take some getting used to, but running lines offer far more granularity on a horse's race position than the in-running comments generally do. The optimum, of course, is to use them in tandem such that any 'bad trip' incidents noted in the comment can be factored in.

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That's all for this week's Clock Watcher. I hope there was something of interest in the above and, if you've any questions, do leave a comment below. I'll be happy to answer them.

Matt

p.s. a gentle reminder that there is much more intel on sectionals - and how they're laid out on geegeez.co.uk - in the User Guide. Click here to download the latest version.

Clock Watcher: State of the Union

The intent of this Clock Watcher series is primarily educational, though obviously with some entertainment value lobbed in as well. It is not really meant to be a tipping piece for all that example horses are generally presumed to have potentially more ability than immediately meets the eye. That said, when trying to extol the virtues of sectional data it certainly helps, from a credibility perspective as much as anything, if some of the mentioned animals win in their near futures.

It was heartening then to see National Anthem, flagged in the inaugural episode of Clock Watcher, win yesterday - and do so in similar vein to his bullet-from-a-gun effort ten days previously. To have doubled up after overcoming trouble at the start was more meritorious than a winning margin of three-quarters of a length implies. With a further four lengths back to the third and three more to the fourth it will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts.

National Anthem was available at 5/2 overnight before returning a heavily-supported 11/8 favourite and, after two taxing runs in ten days following an absence of 471 days, he may need a little time before his next assignment.

Union one to follow

Onwards, and a horse who caught the eye last week, sectionally speaking, was Union, a three-year-old New Approach colt. Sent off at 6/5, it seemed that very few people had missed the finishing-strongly nature of his Kempton debut: that day he was held up before making up ground late. Sadly we don't yet have sectional data for Kempton but happily we do have them for Newcastle; and this is what they tell us about Union.

Let's start with the chart. The black line is par, an expression of what an efficient expenditure of energy looks like, furlong by furlong. Note that the opening section is always relatively slow because the field begins from a standing start. (This is different from, for example, America where there is a distance of 'run up' before the clock starts).

The red line is Union's sectional percentage by furlong, We can see from the comparison of the lines that the early part of Union's race was run on the slow side of even before he began to quicken from the half mile (actually from between the five and four furlong markers, as can be seen by the upward curve).

There was a notable injection of pace from the two to the one after which the race was in the bag, Union eventually coming away by a couple of lengths from two or three other promising types.

As can be seen from his sectional blocks below the chart, his final quarter mile was very fast against par. That, of course, is largely as a result of having gone steadily early; and he still recorded a Topspeed figure of 70 in spite of that inefficiency. Adding his upgrade of 19 gives a composite figure of 89, the largest such rating in the review period.

The second, Blow Your Horn, lays claim to an 81 for what was his debut. Given some greenness and keenness early on, he should at least nearly win a similar race next time.

Global makes Giant stride

Another name to note is one of John Gosden's high class winter team, this time a rare trainer switch into the yard. Global Giant won a small field conditions race at Wolverhampton over most of a mile and a quarter: in what was quite a slowly run affair, the son of Shamardal passed his three rivals in short time and accelerated right away in the final furlong.

Below are the OMC (Opening, Midrace and Closing) sectionals for the race (at the top) and the individual runners (within the result table). They tell us that three of the quartet finished 'very fast', with Global Giant's final three furlongs almost 10% above par.

The '44441' running line (which, confusingly - sorry, is based on the five Call Points) tells us that Gosden's new recruit went from near two lengths last to nearly four lengths first in the final quarter mile. His Topspeed of 61 is unremarkable - a function of the tactical nature of this race - but an uplift of 27 is chunky and aggregates to 88. He might be one for the Easter Classic on All Weather Finals Day, though he'll need to find more to be competitive in that winter season centrepiece.

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What does it mean: Sectional Percentage

Sectional percentage is the time taken within a part of the race, in percentage terms relative to the total race time. It tells us how a horse was ridden: did it do too much too soon, did it finish with more to give, or was it ridden optimally throughout? The answer is normally one of the first two, though to wildly varying degrees.

There are race sectional percentages and runner sectional percentages, the former comprised of the sectional times for the race leader at the end of each section.

To calculate sectional percentage, you need to know the following:

- Length of race (A)
- Length of section (B)
- Time to complete race (C)
- Time to complete section (D)

Using Global Giant's 2-0 sectional percentage (note that any sectional percentage where the section runs to the finish, as in this case, is also known as finishing speed percentage) from the image above, we can give values to A, B, C and D.

A = Length of race = 1m 1f 104 yds, or 2084 yards
B = Length of section = 2 furlongs, or 440 yards [we're looking at the 2-0 section]
C = Time to complete race = 118.4 seconds
D = Time to complete section = 22.1 seconds

The formula is as follows:

(100 x B x C)    /    (A x D)

Applying values gives us:

(100 x 440 x 118.4)    /    (2084 x 22.1)

or

5,209,600    /    46,056.4

= 113.1

Here is the Call Points view of the result, with that 2-0 sectional percentage displayed.

 

This is a simple sum which can easily be configured in a spreadsheet program like Excel:

 

In the image above I've highlighted the calculation cell so that you can see the Excel notation for the formula. [The 'overall distance' field is a calculation of Yards/220 to get furlongs]

Things to note about sectional percentage

When looking at the coloured rectangles, deviation from green means inefficiency with stronger blues and reds implying a highly inefficient effort and, therefore, an upgrade figure indicating a horse is capable of significantly better. In the example above, Global Giant gets an upgrade of 27; but in the example below, Will To Win's rider, Jack Mitchell, has produced an almost perfect effort from the front.

 

One important footnote: whilst sectional percentages - and their ratings expression, upgrades - can point towards good or bad rides, such consideration should always be undertaken in the context of any known run style preference the horse has, and/or the way the race panned out.

For example, Rab Havlin could not be said to have ridden a poor race on Global Giant for all that the horse is presumed by its upgrade figure to have much more to give. It must always be remembered that the objective for a jockey is not to get a '0' upgrade but rather to win the bloody race!

More next week...

Matt

p.s. I encourage you to interact with the data yourself. Check out last week's post for more on how to get started.