Tag Archive for: sectional timing

Clock Watcher: January 2022

It's been a while, but Clock Watcher is back. A (very occasional) series, Clock Watcher aims to highlight a few horses that, according to the sectional data published on this site, produced noteworthy performances and may be underrated - for the time being - going forwards.

Exactly a year ago, I published this Clock Watcher six to follow article and, as generally befalls such things, it was a mixed bag of results. The two Charlie Appleby runners have never run in Britain since, both now in Dubai for other trainers: Folk Magic is unraced since his eye-catching run, while Castlebar was whacked on his Sharjah reappearance after most of a year off before running a much more promising second at Jebel Ali over an inadequate nine furlongs. He ought to win soon when upped in trip.

Poor Fort McHenry promised a fair bit while getting handicapped, but was sadly fatally injured on his handicap debut.

If those were the sick notes, these were the clunkers. Systemic fooled me with a facile score at Newcastle a year ago, and then went nine races without even making the frame! He went up 13lb for that victory and, it could reasonably be argued, didn't have his set up (12f Newcastle, even paced first mile) thereafter; but excuses are easy to make. He wasn't beaten far on a number of occasions and his new trainer, Gary Moore, could well find opportunities on the all-weather if his current hurdling job fails to take root.

Idilico, like Systemic, has run nine times since. Unlike Systemic, he managed to win once - at 25/1! - and place twice more. It was surely no coincidence that all three win/placed efforts came in double digit fields with a little pace to aim at: Idilico does everything late in his races. Switched to Dianne Sayer (from Ian Williams) and reverted to hurdles, he's shown nothing in his last two races, but Dianne is a very shrewd operator and I expect Idilico will be winning over a trip around Ayr or the like this flat turf season. Big field and a bit of pace a must.

And that leaves the undoubted pinup star of, in truth, a fairly ragtag bunch, Rohaan, who proved that if you throw enough mud at the wall some of it will stick! Rohaan had already rattled off a hat-trick by the time he featured in this post a year ago. That didn't stop him snaffling four more scores since. And not just any old triumphs, either: after a Class 3 6f win at Lingers in March (6/1), he prevailed in Group 3 company at Ascot (22/1), Group 2 company at Haydock (33/1) and in the Wokingham (8/1). Whoosh!

That meant the bottom line was 30 runs, five wins, and a profit at SP of 69 points. Very healthy in literal terms but, let's be honest, I was lucky rather than good.

And so here we are again... in what follows, I've mostly concentrated on late season juveniles (now three-year-olds) or lightly raced types, in hope of avoiding a pitfall I've personally succumbed to a number of times: backing an exposed horse who produces one fine sectional effort before returning to its previous level of relative humdrum. Let's look at the new list...

Three-year-olds

Atrium

Trained by Charlie Fellowes for Highclere Thoroughbreds, this chap won two of five as a juvenile, most recently when catching my eye over the straight seven at Newcastle. There, off a mark of 80, he was given a solo on the far side of the field, sweeping through with a sustained acceleration before fading a touch in the last furlong. It was Atrium's second win over a straight 7f from four such attempts; of the other two, one was a fine third on debut and the other was when beaten behind subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games in a well above par handicap.

The 4th and 5th from the featured Newcastle race have won since (only two to have run), and this now three-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor can go in again off his revised peg of 85 when granted an even early tempo on a straight track.

Security Code

Flagging Johnny (and Thady, let us not forget Thady) G juvenile scorers is an almost certain means of finding both a future winner and a mid-term loss to SP, so a value judgement will be required the next day(s). If that's the 'buyer beware' out of the way, here's the sales pitch: Security Code was a debut winner for the Gosdens and, as Jon Shenton noted here, that's not as frequent an occurrence as many would believe. Sure, a 16.5% hit rate on juvenile bow (last five years) is pretty strong but it's far less enticing than the yard's near 24% second start rate.

Anyway, Security Code managed to win that first day, in late November at Wolverhampton over the extended mile. What was notable about his win was that he was almost five lengths off the lead with a quarter mile to go against an even to slow early pace (note the first three green/turquoise blocks) and yet, by the finish, he'd guzzled that deficit and put a further length-plus into Asean Legend, who held off the rest of the field, favoured as he was by the run of things.

 

To make up six lengths in a quarter mile off a steady pace is a fine effort, still more so that it was on debut, and more so again given he ran green and lugged in behind the pace setter in the straight. For all that this was probably a weak contest, the winner looked good - it will be interesting to see where next for Security Code.

Franz Strauss

While we're on Gosden juvenile debut scorers, how about Franz Strauss? Relatively cheaply bought (the price of a Mildenhall maisonette as opposed to a Mayfair mansion) for Godolphin, this son of Golden Horn showed a pleasing gear change to overcome a slightly tardy start over a mile at Newcastle last month. Again, it was not a lightning tempo through the first half mile, but this well named beast (Strauss of course was a virtuoso hornist) showed a fine turn of foot.

Franz Strauss is a half-brother to 100-rated six furlong horse, Regional, and could be suited by a drop back to seven furlongs (for all that Golden Horn implies further, not shorter).

 

 

Eydon

Like the winner, who, as we've seen, can be expected to step forward from first to second start, third-placed Eydon should be upgraded on the bare form as he was stopped in his run at a crucial moment. The 'lengths behind' chart above shows that Eydon lost two lengths a couple of furlongs out when caught in a pocket; he then rattled home in an 11.45 second closing furlong to get within three-quarters of a length of the winner.

As can also be seen by the '1 1 1' notation in the 'R W P' (runs/wins/places) columns, the interloper between the nominated pair, Nolton Cross, has done his bit by winning since.

By an unfashionable staying sire in Olden Times, out of a Frankel mare who stayed middle distances, Eydon has a right to improve for more of a trip and could be the best by his ol' man since the John Dunlop stayers Times Up and Harlestone Times.

Tiber Flow

Trained by William Haggas, this speedster recorded a good time figure and a double digit upgrade when scoring on his debut (Newcastle, 6f). Slow away there, the son of Caravaggio travelled well and quickened smartly.

A month later (2nd January), he was sent off at 1/3 in a four horse affair, again at Newcastle but this time over seven-eighths. Given four lengths to make up off very slow opening and middle sections, Tiber Flow charged through the last quarter mile in 22.12 seconds (standard to slow), usurping the optimally-positioned Zameka in the last furlong.

The third, King Of York, franked the form when all but winning at Southwell on Sunday and Tiber Flow looks like he can win a nice race off an opening perch of 86.

 

Beaches

More speculatively, and thus more likely to be a price next time, Beaches ran an encouraging race on his mark-qualifying third start. Whacked when too much use was made from the front on his middle start of three, Beaches achieved big upgrade figures in the efforts before and since when more patiently ridden, especially last time (Wolves, 8.5f, held up off slow gallop, given no chance to win) behind the smart Godolphin gelding, Symbol Of Light.

An opening rating of 72 looks very fair and Beaches ought to be capable of a good bit more first time in a handicap on the, ahem, sand.

 

Older horses

Annaf

This ex-Shadwell Muhaarar colt was unraced when sold to Mick Appleby for 16,000 guineas at the Autumn horses in training sale, and likely had had some issues. But he was a very good winner on debut at Newcastle (6f novice, 6th January), making a smooth effort to two out and then responding when asked for more, going away from his field at the line.

The visual impression is supported by a page that suggests he'll get further and, if he stands training, he is of obvious interest next time.

Caramelised

Another speculative entry is this five race maiden on the flat who has won two of four over hurdles. His first four flat spins were for Richard Hannon at distances up to a mile and a quarter after which he was sent to Alan King for a hurdling career.

Having perhaps reached his level over timber for now he was switched back to the flat but probably found a medium gallop too steady over a mile and a half at Wolves. The winner there, Trevolli, is unbeaten in two more since, and the fifth has also won, from a total of six subsequent starts by this field. A step up in trip and a bit of pace to aim at should see Caramelised very competitive.

The chart for that race is shown below, with various elements highlighted by green boxes.

 

I hope at this stage you'll be able to infer the points of note for yourself. If you can, you're equipped to go sniffing for your own interesting sectional contenders; if not, maybe have another whizz through the words and pictures above. Either way, I hope there has been something of interest herein and, if we're lucky, a bit of profit from following the nominated horses under suitable conditions.

Side notes

Southwell: Caution advised

Southwell changed from its legacy fibresand surface to a next generation tapeta product in late summer/autumn, and fixtures since the all-weather track reopened on 7th December have been on the new carpet. At this stage, we have not revised our draw, pace or sectional par data to reflect this and, as I've mentioned a number of times already since, users need to be aware of that.

Specifically in relation to sectional timings, we're seeing a lot of artificially high upgrade figures due to the less galloping nature of the tapeta compared with its fibresand predecessor. Although those upgrade figures should not be taken literally, they should also not be discarded completely: a big upgrade still equates to a strong performance, we just ought not to try to peg 'how' strong a performance it was just yet.

I am minded to reset the pars from the start of the new era at Southwell but even that is not without challenges: the going is currently perma-standard to slow while the tapeta beds in. It's difficult to know how long that will take.

Management summary: take care at Southwell but do not discount a big upgrade out of hand.

Sectional Data on Geegeez: A line on the future

We've licensed and published sectional timing data on geegeez.co.uk since July 2019 and, including the associated development effort to bring those data to life, the project cost runs to many tens of thousands of pounds. It was always the case that at some point sectional data would need to be priced in its own right - see this article from November 2019 for an early reference to that - and that time is likely to arrive in the first half of this year.

Any fee will be as an optional 'bolt on' to the existing Gold subscription, and it is not expected to be prohibitive: the aim here is not profit (though, naturally, as a business there is no shame in that), but merely to break even on the ongoing costs. The sunk chunk is my problem.

I hope before that time to be able to publish the Racing TV UK tracks (except Chelmsford, who remain outside of any timing agreement), but that very much depends on the usual contract wrangling and negotiations between racing's many splinter groups. Fingers crossed.

Matt

Sectional Timing, and How To Use It

Much has been made of sectional timing in the past 18 months or so, including by me, and it can indeed offer great insight into how races were run. But the challenge for publishers, including here at geegeez.co.uk, is to successfully answer the question, "How do I use sectional timing to inform my betting?". That will be the main focus of this article, but before that a spot of revision.

What Are Sectionals? And why should we care?

I recorded this video a little over a year ago and it is actually very good (I wouldn't normally say that about one of my recordings!) in terms of breaking things down. So, if you prefer to watch/listen rather than read, this is for you. If you prefer to read, scroll beneath the video box...

[Hint: if I speak too slowly for you, click the cog icon bottom right and change the playback speed to something more suitable]

 

 

I've written previously in some of my Clock Watcher posts about various terms and concepts related to sectionals, and those can be accessed from here.

The following blog posts are also useful if you want to really understand sectional timing concepts (and I would encourage you to block out a bit of time and work through them). They're here:

Why Sectionals Matter - by Tony Keenan

What Is The Point of Sectional Timing in Horse Racing - by me

An Introduction to Sectional Timing - by Simon Rowlands

Tony's piece is quite high level and a good flavour of the subject; mine is a little lower to the ground but still overview stuff; while Simon's excellent paper is chapter and verse on both the mechanics and some practical applications of sectional data.

**

Understanding Sectional Data Terminology

Let's quickly whizz through some of the key terms and concepts applied to sectional content. First up, what even is a section?

Section

A section is simply a part of a race. A race is a 'section', though given that it is the start-to-finish section it doesn't tell us much about the sub-plots within the narrative. Sections are not quite arbitrary and they can be of varying lengths depending on who/where the intel is coming from.

Here at geegeez.co.uk, we have three different section types: by furlong, call points and OMC.

By furlong, as the name suggests, has a variable number of sections depending on how many furlongs there are in the race; 'call points' breaks a race into five roughly equal chunks; and OMC breaks a race into Opening, Middle and Closing chunks.

Sectionals

Within each section, we can establish the amount of time taken, distance travelled, and position in the race (and lengths behind the leader, or in front), as well as things like stride length and cadence (which are very much for another day).

Once we have, for instance, the sectional time, we can make comparisons: with the same horse in other race sections, with other horses in the race within the same section, and with historical data for races run over the same track and trip.

Sectional percentage

Rather than raw times, e.g. a 12 second furlong, we tend to convert those times into percentages of the overall race time, e.g. the horse completed the five furlong race in 60 seconds and recorded a 12 second furlong in the middle of the race, therefore that sectional percentage was 100% (see image). Do not get unduly hung up on the 'how'!

Finishing speed percentage

Finishing speed percentage is a sectional percentage where the 'to' of the section is the finish. For example, the section might be two furlongs out to the finish. We calculate finishing speed percentage in the same way as we do other sections, and this specific number tells us whether horses were finishing faster or slower than 100%. More pertinently, when compared with 'par', it tells us about the performance against historical standards.

This is important because some courses have, for instance, uphill finishes where the closing section will be slower than it is for level or downhill sections of the same track. Runners in all other races over that course and distance (and indeed other distances at the same course) will have encountered the same topology, allowing for comparisons. [Hopefully that makes sense]

Par

Par in the sectional context is an attempt at defining how much energy (in percentage terms) 'should' be expended in each part of a race based on our understanding of prior truly run races over the same course and distance. What is a truly run race? Good question. It is one where it can reasonably be considered that the leader at each section went close to optimally in terms of efficient use of its energy.

We calculate par not by averages but by a logarithmic scale of race rank percentiles. [Again, these are mechanics, you don't need to know this: I merely share for the more curious!]

In layman's terms, the par percentile in a five-furlong race (where most are truly run, but a fair number are overly fast) will be greater than the par percentile in a mile and a half race, where many more contests are tactical. Specifically, we use the 38th percentile to establish par for five-furlong races at a given track, and the 20th percentile for twelve furlong races.

Par is a line in the sand against which to compare performances in a race.

Enough with the terminology, how do we actually use this stuff?

**

Using Sectionals to Understand the Past, and the Future

As with all form study, sectionals provide historical performance context for today's race: they help us understand what a horse is capable of - and, importantly, what it might have to offer under a slightly more favourable setup/ride. This video outlines some scenarios to mine for and, if you prefer blog posts, beneath the video is a 'words and pictures' version of the same.

 

 

Upgrade figures (UP)

Let's look at some examples, starting with a very obvious one originally flagged in this post.

Punchbowl Flyer came into the Wokingham unbeaten in his previous two races and exited that race having finished no better than eighth of 21. But he was first home on his side of the draw and, crucially for this article, had a solid upgrade figure - see the right hand UP column in the image below.

 

 

The UP column contains sectional upgrade figures calculated based on finishing speed performance against par. A figure greater than five or so implies a horse may have been compromised by the run of the race and may have more to offer next time.

As we can see (in the middle of the image below), Punchbowl Flyer returned to winning ways just a few days later.

 

 

The coloured blobs show how PF raced in the Wokingham based on his time spent in each section: fast (orange), even to fast (yellow), even (green), slow (blue), slower (bluer)! Like many others, though to a greater degree, he went too hard too soon.

The line above the coloured blobs show his 'Future Form': a win at 11/4 in a £10k handicap.

Making a list of upgrade horses is a simple way of highlighting runners who might be ready to win soon.

Here's an example of a little novice sprint at Wolverhampton the other day, where a contested lead meant two horses completely blew each others' prospects:

 

 

Both Beauzon and Sidcot Swallet might be worth another chance if looking like getting an easy lead.

 

Beware the well beaten outsider with a big upgrade figure

Sometimes you'll see a big upgrade against a no-hoper beaten half the track. Remember, the figure is calculating inefficiency, and you'll find a few horses who were ridden inefficiently but who likely would not have been competitive even under an ultra-efficient ride. Here's an example:

 

 

Juriste, a 66/1 shot, was beaten 26 lengths in this 1m6f contest. He might be capable of a lot better but the balance of probabilities is that he's flattered by his upgrade figure of 12. As with all form reading, we still have to make subjective judgements along the way, though most are fairly clear-cut.

 

Big Upgrades in Slowly Run Races

Upgrade figures are NOT speed figures. They are 'inefficiency calculations'. When I was first playing with our UP numbers I tried applying them to a pure speed rating (Topspeed, though that's academic). They didn't really tell me anything, which wasn't a surprise as the two scales (UP and TS) are totally unrelated. But what I did discover, again far from a shock, was that bigger upgrades often occurred when the race was slow early.

That doesn't mean the upgrade figure has less merit; far from it. It is very useful to know, objectively, which horses are capable of producing a notable gear change off a steady gallop if today's race looks like being steadily run.

 

Fast Finishers

A second 'use case' for sectional data, and kind of a subset of the first one in a way, is identifying horses whose finishing effort was a good deal quicker than the race finishing speed as a whole. We call these fast finishers and they can be easily spotted in a couple of ways, one prescriptive and the other user-definable. Let's start with the easy way...

Easy Fast Finishers

We recently introduced a Fast Finishers report, which flags all of today's (and tomorrow's) runners that produced a finishing speed percentage which bettered the race finishing speed percentage by 2.5% or more. It looks a lot like this:

 

 

In this extremely convenient example from yesterday, the top two - based on 'sectional upgrade' (the right hand column, Sec Upg) - were tidy winners, at 3/1 and 5/1 respectively. Coincidentally, they also recorded the two largest finishing speed percentage differentials (FS% Diff). This is not usually the case.

As a side note, FS% Diff is calculated thus: ((Horse FS% / Race FS%) x 100) - 100

Taking the top one: ((105.14 / 98.52) x 100) - 100 =

(1.06719 x 100) - 100 = 106.719 - 100 = 6.719, rounded to 6.72

That's a verbose way of saying it is not Horse FS% - Race FS%!

 

Bespoke Fast Finishers

But what if you want to find your own performances of merit? Maybe you don't like our arbitrary '2.5% greater than race FS%' cut off. Fair enough. Here's what to do.

Open up the first result for a meeting, then select the 'OMC' and 'Sectionals' options. I also tend to have the 'Comments' open, and usually 'Running Lines' as well:

 

 

Remember to turn sectionals ON on your My Geegeez page in the 'Racecard Options' section. Default display option is 'None'.

 

 

OK, with things set up (you only have to do it once), work through the results comparing the race FS% with the runners' FS%'s. Once you find an interesting one, scout the in-running comment (and perhaps the Running Lines as well) to corroborate the numbers. Here's an example from that same Wolverhampton card where a number of beaten horses were compromised by the run of the race:

 

 

We're looking specifically at the percentage figure in the closing sectional block. Here, the race closing sectional/finishing speed percentage (3-0) is 103.3%. See the highlighted block top right.

The UP column reveals both fast and slow finishers: Punchbowl Flyer was an example of a slow finisher (did too much too soon) further up this post; and here we can see that all of Parikarma, Risaalaat, Reclaim Victory and, to a lesser degree, Castle Quarter, had too much to do.

Parikarma, whose FS% here was 106.5%, ran over a flat mile at Leicester a couple of days later and finished in similar fashion. She may win soon, perhaps over a slightly longer trip. Those others are all worth noting in their next couple of starts, assuming their general form credentials also stack up. [That is worth re-stating, though it may be quite obvious to some: a horse must have shown it is capable of competing against today's race conditions - or at least not shown it is incapable of competing - in order for any sectional insight to be useful].

**

Sectional timing is a very useful means of understanding what happened in a race. As bettors, we need to be alive to horses capable of stepping forward in finishing position terms after races where they were to some degree compromised. Here at geegeez, we've tried to make the information as usable as possible via both our Fast Finishers report and our Upgrade figures, and I hope in the above you've been inspired to experiment with this data for yourself. If you're not currently a Gold subscriber, you can join us here.

Good luck,

Matt

 

Royal Ascot 2021 Clock Watcher: Sectional Horses of Interest

The searing heat of battle that is Royal Ascot is now a fading memory but its impact on the form book will permeate throughout the remainder of this season and beyond. Picking performances of extreme merit is not difficult - Poetic Flare's demolition in the St James's Palace Stakes, Subjectivist's similar one horse show in the Gold Cup to name two - but profiting from such knockout efforts is more challenging, unless you have deep pockets, a fearless outlook and no eye for value.

In this post, then, I'd like to look a bit further down the running orders in search of a few horses who may have achieved more than their notation in the records suggests; and I'll undertake this act of faint clairvoyance (after all, every soothsayer performs their oracle on the basis of what they see before them that the recipient cannot necessarily yet see for themselves) through the prism of sectional timing information.

There is, I hope, slightly less smoke and mirrors than your average gypsy caravan crystal ball encounter in what follows but, as with tarot readings, time will tell on that!

One final note before I begin: this article was inspired by one covering the same subject produced by the perma-excellent Simon Rowlands, which can be read here. We are both looking at the TPD sectional data so there will be commonalities; but there is also sufficient differentiation - as well as an opportunity for me to highlight how readily such performances advertise themselves on these pages - to justify treading a similar path.

A Quick Whizz Through The Mechanics

First of all, finding results for a specific meeting on a given date is as easy as selecting the date, either from the 'Recent Results' or 'Results Search' buttons, and then choosing the meeting in question from the dropdown.

Finding racing results for a specific meeting on a specific date

 

Clicking the red 'Full Result' button for a race takes you to that result. Gold subscribers will see on the right hand side of the result a column called 'UP':

 

This is the sectional upgrade figure our algorithm has allocated to the horse in question. For example, in the above image Palace Pier got an upgrade of 3. You can also see these upgrades highlighted in certain circumstances on our Fast Finishers report (rightmost column):

 

I'll not go into detail on how the upgrade figure is calculated but it is of course important to understand what the number is attempting to measure. It is in essence a barometer of how much more a horse may have to give in a more agreeable race setup; put another way, it seeks to quantify the degree to which the way a horse ran compromised its chance. A third way of couching is how sub-optimal, or inefficient, was the performance in terms of energy distribution.

Management summary: the bigger the upgrade figure, the more - notionally - the horse may have had to offer.

To the races... (at last, Ed.)

Tuesday

On the opening day, the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes was quick through the middle section and commensurately slow at the end (finishing speed in the turquoise box of 97% - the colour coding is a little unreliable at Ascot where there is, at this stage, a small sample of data with which to work).

Oxted was a fine, and thoroughly efficient, winner of the race, he and second-placed Arecibo benefiting from well-timed rides. Of the first four home it is clear from the UP column that Battaash should be marked up most. He served it up in that rapid middle section and faded late on. Given that he was coming back from surgery for his seasonal bow, this was a performance of promise and presumably he'll now head to Goodwood for the King George Stakes and then on to York for the Nunthorpe as he has done with metronomic regularity in each of the past four seasons.

But down in the cheap seats are a couple of double digit upgrades. Care does need to be taken sometimes with big UP figures far from the podium positions, especially when achieved by big-priced outsiders. In this case, we have a brace of 11's for 7/1 Winter Power and 40/1 Maven.

And, in this case, my contention is that both should be treated as of just about equal merit. They were drawn next to each other, they were both within a length (or so) of the lead to the furlong pole, and they both faded late. As a Wes wunner, it may be that we don't see Maven again until this time next year, but Winter Power is likely to attend all the midsummer five furlong dances if her nine races in little more than four months last season is any gauge.

In the 1m6f Copper Horse Stakes, the Charlie Fellowes-trained Dubious Affair closed well but just too late. Depending on your view of jockey Jamie Spencer, it was either a great but unlucky ride or a shocking cockup. Very few seemingly take a neutral view of that particular pilot. Personally, I'm in the great rider camp, and he was unlucky here, as were connections of course.

Fellowes' Royal Ascot handicap record is worthy of a mention. After a couple of years getting the hang of things, he's recorded three winners, two seconds and a fourth from ten runners since 2017. The winners were 33/1 twice and 20/1, and Dubious Affair would have been a third 33/1 score.

Wednesday

The feature of the Queen's Vase, a 1m6f Group 2 for three-year-olds, was the steady tempo at which is was run, borne out by upgrades in the teens for most of the first eight home. Kemari benefited from his prominent position, getting first run on waited with rivals. Stowell and Benaud, both 6 1/4 lengths off the lead at the half mile pole closed well but could never overcome the head start they'd afforded those up top. Of the pair, Stowell may be of slightly more interest in future, though both retain plenty of upside in staying company.

I've highlighted the in-running comment for Wordsworth, because he too was probably inconvenienced by the run of the race. Not in a sectional sense but, rather, by dint of the fact that he would likely have benefited from a more truly run event. He's a definite St Leger player in my view.

 

Indie Angel was a big price but an unambiguous winner of the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. Coming from near last to win going away, she could be a live one for a Group 1 like the Sun Chariot in early October.

In the Windsor Castle, Ruthin ran a stormer despite finishing no better than 7th. Drawn 12 of 27, the least favoured part of the track, Frankie jumped in front and tacked left across to the near (stands') rail. Before considering the fuel guzzled in trapping and making the running in a big field five furlong juvenile contest, there is the ground covered in manoeuvring 15 stall widths across the track, quite probably more than the eventual 3 1/2 length margin of defeat.

It may of course all be moot anyway unless you wager US racing because we're unlikely to see Ruthin this side of the pond any time soon. That said, she's one to follow and could end up at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, hosted at Del Mar in early November.

Just behind Ruthin was Guilded, now a three race maiden and a 66/1 shot this time. She too was on the speed and, though berthed better than the US runner, still deserves plenty of credit for this effort. She looks a near certainty (don't quote me!) in an ordinary novice event perhaps on a slightly easier track.

Thursday

Mohaafeth was an exciting winner of the Hampton Court Stakes and looks destined for greater things. In behind, perhaps Movin Time is another to take from the race. Getting no cover and racing wide early was not the plan, and then being interfered with would have lit him up a little; in that context, the fact he hit the front two from home before fading is creditable. A lesser Pattern score is within his grasp.

 

In the Ribblesdale, Eshaada was an unlucky second. While the winner received an enterprising ride, Rab Havlin controlling the pace through the second half of the race, those in behind were all compromised to some degree - as is generally the case when one gets an easy lead. Havlin kicked at the optimal time for his filly and the others were varying degrees of unable to pull back the leash. Eshaada got nearest in spite of being remarkably weak in the markets all day. Divinely is another who closed from too far back.

The Britannia Stakes featured a number of significant upgrades and, by now, I hope you'll be able to spot them, and add to your tracker if you'd like, by yourself:

 

Friday

Between Thursday and Friday, it got wet. Very wet. The going pendulum swung a full arc and was heavy for the penultimate day. That will have ruined the chances of many more than those officially declared non-runners.

The opening Albany Stakes was a personal triumph for geegeez-sponsored jockey David Probert, who rode the winner, Sandrine. But it was the filly who followed her home, Hello You, that goes (actually, stays) on my list. A massive sectional eye-catcher (and, in truth, an eye eye-catcher!) on debut when scooting away from her (uncharacteristically well-touted for the track) field at Wolverhampton, she built on that here, travelling nicely to lead at the furlong pole before, I presume, finding her closing kick blunted by the ground. She could be a very smart filly over six and seven furlongs this season.

 

The six furlong Commonwealth Cup, a Group 1, was controversial as a result of the revised placings of the first two home. Further back were two performances also of merit for the future. While Suesa was on everyone's radar beforehand - the French filly was sent off 9/4 favourite - and ran better than her finishing position suggests, it is the Irish-trained filly Mooneista I'm most interested in.

Trained by the unfashionable Jack Davison, she's been running consistently well, largely in defeat, for two seasons. Here, she closed to within two lengths of the lead at the furlong pole before folding to an eight-length beating at the line. But most of her best form is over five furlongs. When returned to that trip I expect she'll be very competitive.

 

There were three more sectional possibles for the Tracker in the Sandringham, which I'll again allow you to pick out if you'd like:

 

Saturday

The Wokingham was a classic two for one race, the far side having much the best of it. But it is the eighth horse home, Punchbowl Flyer, who goes on my list. First of nine home on the stands' side, history tells us he had no chance of taking this race, instead convincingly scoring in his division. Left on 99 by the handicapper, that arguably makes him a winner without a penalty and, given he'd won his previous two he looks likely to be competitive wherever he shows up next. For similar reasons, Lampang may also step forward next time.

 

Summary

There were some incredible performances last week in Berkshire, and some less obvious ones which might pay their way going forwards. I hope the above has offered a few for the notebooks and, more than that, I hope it's tempted you to play around with this intel on the results. The sectional data appears on results a day or two after the races and it takes, literally, a few seconds to scan a race for big UP figures. Thereafter, a quick squint at the context in which that figure was attributed will leave you with a decision about whether to note the horse for a future assignment.

It's simple enough because we've done most of the legwork: do take a look!

Good luck,

Matt

Geegeez Gold: May 2021 Upgrades

Another month, another set of new features within Geegeez Gold designed to help you know more than other people about a race.

Before we start...

Request Geegeez Desktop Site

Did you know?

Mobile users hankering after the good old bad old days of pinch and swipe to expand the desktop view on a phone...

...can still do that!

Within the Chrome browser, tap the three dots menu option top right and then scroll down to "Desktop Site" and tap the check box. (See image)

Hey presto - it's back to the future!

If you use non-Android type of mobile device, this google search will likely find the right answer.

I hope that's helpful for anyone still struggling to come to terms with our slightly different mobile layout.

 

Right, back in the room. What's new in this release?

Fast Finishers report

The first of two new reports is the long-awaited Fast Finishers report. It is based on our sectional timing database and highlights horses that may have performed better - or may be capable of performing better - than first met the eye. These are typically horses that expended their energy sub-optimally for one reason or another, the contention being that with a more even distribution of their effort they could improve.

The report highlights horses which have completed the closing section of their race notably faster (2.5% or more) than the race finishing speed.

The report looks like this:

The race tempo - three coloured and labelled blocks - is included so users may compare with the pace projection in the PACE tab for today’s race.

The report can be filtered by finishing position in the ‘Fast Finisher’ race (FF Pos), number of runs since the FF race, the race finishing speed percentage (FSP), the horse FSP, and/or the sectional upgrade (Sec Upg) earned.

HINT: Look for either a recent run, or an older run where conditions match today’s. Also, importantly, consider whether the race today is likely to be run at a similar tempo to the one where the fast finish was achieved.

 

1st Time Headgear / Surgery Report

Also new in this release is something we're calling HS1 - no relation to the high speed rail link whose implementation polarising opinion almost as much as the two parts of the country it is slated to unite!

This view displays the two-year record of trainers running horses for the first time in specific headgear, or since undergoing publicly recorded surgery. It's a similar layout - the same, in fact - to Trainer and Sire Snippets, but naturally with different content.

Here's how it looks:

The 'All' tab is a rollup of the content from the individual headgear and surgery views, and may be the handiest digest on a daily basis.

It is worth saying that, in the main, the application of headgear should not be seen as a positive and, as such, most trainers have negative records. In the same vein, though to a lesser extent, surgical interventions imply a degree of dissatisfaction with prior track performance.

Note: horses gelded or having had wind surgery prior to their first start are excluded from the report, as are horses with a first time headgear combination (e.g. blinkers and tongue tie).

 

Fast Results Course Dropdown

Sometimes we just want to know the results from a single meeting, say for example when we've made a placepot bet or the like. On busier racing days it can be difficult to isolate those races of interest from the swathe of results... until now. We've added a handy course dropdown so you can get just the results from the meeting you're interested in.

It lives in the top block, here:

...and has very few surprises. In the below example, I've selected Lingfield on Saturday (where geegeez-sponsored rider Marco Ghiani recorded a near 153/1 double - go Marco!)...

Fast Results Course Dropdown

Fast Results Course Dropdown

Show / hide odds toggle on racecard

Some people like to assess races blind - that is, without knowing the market - and we encourage users to try this at least from time to time as a barometer of race reading skill. To facilitate that, we already have an option on your My Geegeez page to show/hide odds.

But now we've made it even simpler to hide (and then display) the odds with a toggle button right in the race details bar. It can be found in the blue bar, and looks like this:

Odds toggle

Odds toggle

 

 

Minor fixes / amendments

As well as the above, we've made a few bug fixes and small changes, as follows:

Removed the odds requirement when rating a race

Up until now, if you wanted to add comments or ratings into the racecard option behind the 'calculator' icon, you needed to include an estimate of odds. Now you don't if you don't want to. It's still reasonable practice to do that, in order to see how close to 100% (ish) book you can get, but it should be your choice. It is now.

 

By time racecard sortation fix

We recently introduced a bug to the sortation of the 'by time' view of today's races - a very useful feature, for me at least. That's fixed in this release.

 

CSV export on Report Angles

In line with other reports, we now have a csv export function on the Report Angles report. It's the green button top right.

 

**

As always with new stuff, there is scope for issues to arise, either with the new stuff itself or, very occasionally, breaking something existing. If you spot anything we've missed, please do drop us a line to let us know. We'll get it sorted pronto.

Hope you like these new components. There are no game changers this time, but a good deal more helpful insight for your horseracing betting.

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.

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.

 

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.

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?

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:

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.

*

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.

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: Rise for National Anthem

Welcome to a new weekly feature, Clock Watcher, where we'll shine a light on a few horses that might be interesting to follow from a speed and/or sectional perspective. It is my hope that this column will also serve to introduce, embed and reinforce various concepts which may be unfamiliar at this stage.

Generally speaking, a run considered of sufficient merit to appear here will have two components: the horse will have recorded a time which is at least reasonably quick for the conditions; and the horse will have recorded a noteworthy upgrade on that performance.

The first component is fairly self-explanatory even if defining what is "at least reasonably quick" is highly subjective. Geegeez.co.uk doesn't currently produce its own speed ratings (and there is no plan for that to change at this stage), so for our purposes we will use Racing Post's Topspeed figures, which are published under license on this site.

The second component requires a bit more introduction. What is an 'upgrade', how does a horse achieve one, and how is this quantified?

What is an upgrade?

Track and field athletes run at their most efficient level - enabling them to produce their fastest times - when they travel at a constant speed. For instance, when Kenenisa Bekele broke the 5000m world record in 2004, a record which still stands today, his 1000m split times - or sectional times - were as follows:

12:37.35 (2:33.24, 2:32.23, 2:31.87, 2:30.59, 2:29.42)

Let's tabulate that:

A few months later, in the Olympic 5000m final, they covered the first 4 kilometres in 648.62 seconds, almost 41 seconds slower than the world record pace. Bekele, overwhelming favourite for gold, was readily out-sprinted and had to settle for silver, the winner recording a final time of 794.39 seconds, 37 seconds slower than the world record.

In a race where they crawled (relatively) and then sprinted, Bekele was unable to produce his best form. He could not run inefficiently to the same effect as his vanquisher, the Olympic 1500m champion Hicham El Guerrouj, whose superior kick facilitated his victory.

We know what is 'efficient' based on the body of similar historical races, and we call this par.

In simple terms, any deviation from efficiency - or par - whether fast early then fading, or slow early with a rapid finish, earns an upgrade. Thus, in this case, both the winner and second - as well, indeed, as the third through to sixth placed finishers - would have received upgrade figures.

An upgrade, then, is a recognition of the degree to which a horse raced inefficiently.

It should be noted that racing inefficiently will not necessarily prevent a horse, or an athlete, from winning. Indeed, El Guerrouj 'got the run of the race' back in 2004, that slow time suiting his questionable stamina but stronger kick. The primary objective is, after all, not to break records but to win the race.

What about par?

There is more detail in the User Guide around what may be new terms to some readers, and I'd encourage you to check that document (page 63 onwards in the current version, click here).

However, for the purposes of expediency, a quick line on par here. Par is the threshold against which all subsequent races over a course and distance are measured. From the User Guide,

Par is an assessment of the optimal energy distribution – based on relative time – between the sections of a race. It is not an average of all sectional times. Rather, it follows a fairly complex formula which uses an ‘nth percentile’ race as par. Further information can be found in Simon Rowlands’ excellent Sectional Timing Introduction report, available at this link. Indeed, that document is highly recommended for anyone keen to get a head start with the applications of sectional information.

So, in simple terms, par is a baseline, a means by which we may better understand the context of a performance.

Let's look at some examples.

 

An obvious one...

We'll start with a sore thumb, a horse on everyone's radar regardless of whether via visuals, sectionals or form. The very well related Waldkonig made his debut in a run-of-the-mill Wolverhampton novice stakes for two-year-olds on 7th December. A Kingman half-brother to Arc winner Waldgeist, he was sent off 6/4 favourite over the extended mile trip.

In the end, he won by nine widening lengths; the data offer some interesting footnotes to that emphatic victory.

 

There is a lot going on in this image, so let's take it step by step. First up, note that I have selected 'Call Points' (a five section breakdown) top left and I have clicked the 'Show Chart' button, which then changes colour and displays 'Hide Chart', the action that would happen upon a further click. So those are my selected parameters. (I also have the data view selected from my My Geegeez page, check the User Guide for more on that).

Beneath the blue buttons is a line of five coloured rectangles. These are the Call Points sectionals for the race. That is, they relate to the race leader at five points during the race, specifically the six-furlong, four-furlong, three-furlong, two-furlong and finishing posts.

The colour of the rectangles indicates the relative speed of each section, on a cold/slow/blue to hot/fast/red scale. Thus, this race was even (green) early, slow (blue) in the middle, and fast (orange) late. The OMC (Opening, Midrace, Closing) view below captures this more succinctly and is a better place for newbies to start, due to there being fewer data points.

Getting back to the main image, and the main part of it, we see a chart. This chart is highly configurable but the image shows the default, which is the sectional percentage data, by furlong, for the winner - and with the black par line also displayed. Any/all runners can be added or removed to/from the chart by clicking their name underneath or using the 'toggle' button top left.

Next to the toggle button is a statement of how many races comprise the par calculations and, therefore, the degree of confidence in par. In this case - indeed in the vast majority of all-weather race cases - confidence is high. At this stage, confidence is more limited elsewhere while the body of data grows as more races are run over various courses and distances.

The chart reflects what the coloured rectangles are saying: that the leader went even-ish (slightly above par) early, slowed up notably in the middle of the race, before finishing very strongly - well above the black par line.

Beneath the chart is the full result table, which has a familiar look to it. I have clicked on the winner's finishing position (i.e. on the text that says '1st') to reveal his sectional data - coloured rectangles for Call Points (including split times, aggregates time, and sectional time as a percentage of overall time, i.e. sectional percentage), running lines (the horse's position in the field and distance behind the leader, or in front if the race leader) - and in-running comment.

The rightmost column in the result table is 'UP', and it contains the upgrade figure. In this example, Waldkonig was calculated as having an upgrade of 29 by our algorithm. Again, in terms of quantifying ability, this tells us little more than that, like his father, Waldkonig is able to quicken impressively off a steady pace.

Waldkonig was given a Topspeed rating of 47 for his time performance in the race. That is far from a standout rating and would not highlight the horse's effort as noteworthy, though of course the nine length winning margin would be missed by nobody. By applying the upgrade figure to a representation of the time performance we get closer to an understanding of the merit of the effort: clearly it takes more ability to quicken off a fast pace than a slow one, with the degree to which a horse quickens also worthy of note.

We've been playing with combining various numbers to produce some sort of 'composite' time/performance rating, though I must declare at this stage that I'm not 100% certain that adding upgrades to Topspeed is a sensible thing to do.

We are currently trying to establish whether it improves the predictive ability of the raw speed figure: they are calculated on different scales so it is probably not entirely sensible to simply add the two together.

Nevertheless, there is some indication in the work done to date that this somewhat contrived 'combo' number has merit. In the case of Waldkonig, his 47 gets an extra 29 for a 76 overall. That is a better reflection of his performance, though probably not of his ability given this was a debut on a track that was likely not ideal. In any case, what it tells us unequivocally is that, in a race where the pace scenario looks muddling, Waldkonig is capable of a searing turn of foot.

 

A (slightly) less obvious one...

At a slightly less 'could be anything' level, trainer David Brown rewarded his and connections' patience when National Anthem, off the track for 417 days since running poorly at the same venue, blasted home in a six-furlong novice event at Southwell. Brown is the horse's third trainer in three career starts spanning 821 days and a wind operation!

Sent off at 15/2, fifth favourite of six but not completely unfancied, his performance was very different in sectional terms to that of Waldkonig, as the image below illustrates:

 

Here we see from the running line that National Anthem jumped very alertly and maintained that advantage, albeit that it was diminishing in the final furlong. He was better than four lengths in front after a furlong and fully nine lengths clear with an eighth to go. Little wonder that he tired close home. Also little wonder that he's entered over five furlongs at the same track on Monday where it will be very interesting to see how he goes in a handicap off a mark of 75, if taking up his engagement.

 

Far more speculatively...

Meanwhile, down in the basement, a horse called Disruptor might pop up at a price some time soon. He ran on 30th December at Lingfield, finishing third, and as can be seen from the below he ran an almost polar opposite race to par - based on the five Call Point sections:

 

This lad has had a few goes - twelve, including one since, to be precise - and has showed much improved form when leading or racing prominently recently. Prior to his run on Monday, where his inexperienced (14 rides) jockey shot up in the air as the stalls opened and then got sandwiched between two no-hopers for most of a furlong, he'd run his three best races from the front.

If/when he can get a slightly softer advantage - note the undesirable red zone section from five to four in his running data above - he has a chance to see his race out more effectively, albeit very likely in low grade company and with a more experienced pilot on top.

That said, looking more closely at the draw (DR) column below, it is worth noting that he has been consistently fortunate with his stall position in recent starts.

[NB note also that, in 'Show Sectionals' mode, races without sectionals have blanks. Hovering over the running lines segment displays details of the performance, including comments, position, distance beaten and jockey].

 

That's all for this inaugural edition of Clock Watcher. I hope it has provided food for thought and that, over time, it will support your understanding of the new data we are beginning to provide and how you might best take advantage of it for yourself.

Until next time...

Matt

p.s. as of Wednesday 8th January, sectional data is now live for Gold subscribers on geegeez.co.uk. You will need to enable it from the Race Card Options section of your My Geegeez page. On that page, you will also find a link to the most recent version of the User Guide, in which there is a comprehensive outline of sectional timing and how it is published on this site.

The current coverage comprises Total Performance Data tracks, as it is from them that we license our data. We hope to be able to integrate both Ascot and RTV (UK) tracks in due course. To be clear, we have no in house sectional aggregation function. Rather, we license 3rd party data as a publisher and aim to add value in the visualisation of that data. I very much hope by mid-year we have a far more comprehensive provision in terms of track coverage.

What is the point of sectional timing in horse racing?

Sectional timing has finally become a thing in British racing having been a staple around the globe for - literally - decades. In this post, we'll explore what sectional timing is and, more to the point, for what it can be used in the racing and betting context.

What is sectional timing?

Sectional timing is, as the name suggests, a record of how fast something happened within a part of a race. In Formula 1 or track and field, this would be lap times within an overall race time; in skiing or cycling time trials, it would be the time a competitor took within a specific segment - or section - of the race.

In all cases, it is a snippet of information about a chunk of a race which can be used to broaden our understanding of how a competitor is performing, or has performed. In and of itself, sectional timing is no more than that.

By collecting this information for lots of similar events, however,  we can start to build up a picture of how to do things optimally, which inevitably means how to win more often.

Why bother with sectional timing?

Let's take a stupid example. Like, a really stupid example. Let's say I was going to run a marathon (already pretty stupid), and let's further say that I decide to sprint the first 200 metres. How do you suppose the remaining 26 miles 185 yards are going to go for me? Not well; I've blown much of my available energy before the race has even started.

Now let's take a slightly more real world example, the 2018 Arkle Chase won by Footpad. Even if you don't watch the video, much of what you need to know about this race is shown in the still image below. Petit Mouchoir (purple Gigginstown colours) and Saint Calvados (white, blue, red Brooks family colours) did something not far removed from my preposterous marathon analogy above.

Guess what happened to the 4/1 third- and 11/4 second-favourites respectively?

They were absolutely whacked by the finish, allowing Footpad - in the green, running at a much more sensible, and sustainable, speed - to win as he liked. Second home was Brain Power, white and black colours, and also restrained away from the duel ahead.

The two scrapping protagonists finished 15 lengths third and 53 lengths fourth of five, only beating a totally outclassed rival who jumped poorly.

After the race, the media went mad about Footpad's demolition job: here we had the new Champion Chase favourite, the next generation of untouchable speed chaser...

Only we didn't. And, with a stopwatch (or even a bit of common sense in a setup as blatant as this), it was obvious that this was not a coronation procession, but rather a case of one very capable horse benefiting from the lunacy inefficiency of two other very capable horses and their human support acts.

Footpad did go on to win the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown as the 2/5 favourite on his next start. But there he beat a broken Petit Mouchoir - who'd also rocked up at Aintree in between times - and a gaggle of Grade 3 (at best) rivals. Thereafter he was beaten on all three starts in what should have been his breakthrough season in non-novice company. On each occasion he was sent off favourite, twice at evens or shorter. Connections ultimately swerved Altior and the Champion Chase in favour of the Ryanair, in which Footpad finished a distant eighth of twelve.

Even allowing for a solid race in the middle of that trio, he was still beaten by an 11-year-old called Simply Ned that day.

Back to sectional timing, and what it would have told us about that race. In point of fact, it told us that Footpad ran extremely fast. But he also ran extremely efficiently as a result of sitting off the crazy fractions set by Petit Mouch and Saint C. He was able to maintain his consistently quick pace where those two could not sustain their overly rapid early dash.

Subsequently, in more sensibly run contests, Footpad was less able to bring his high-cruising one pace to bear: the notion that he quickened in the Arkle is plain wrong, he merely slowed down far less markedly than his main rivals on the prevailing heavy ground.

But still we've not got to the nub: why bother with sectional timing?

Because, at the most fundamental level, it helps us to understand what happened far more reliably than our eyes. Sectional information acts as a permanent record where our eyes / brains have a more temporary or transient ability to capture, store and re-process such intel across a wide range of races.

And, most importantly, the collection and collation of this timing data enables us to make inferences that were hitherto not possible, or at least to make them with more certainty and/or confidence.

If we know that an unexposed two-year-old was all at sea early but covered the last two furlongs in a very quick, relatively, time that is worth noting. All the more so if the horse in question didn't win the race and may not be obvious to the betting public.

If we know that an exposed handicapper invariably runs his best races when recording even fractions off an overly fast pace, and the pace map suggests plenty of early zip today, that is very much worth noting.

If we know a horse like Footpad had a perfect setup to bring his A game, and that such a scenario is unlikely to present itself too often, we can risk taking a chunk out of the market by betting against him subsequently. [By the way, I really like Footpad; for him to do what he did in the Arkle having absolutely walked through one of the fences on the way round was awesome. But my affection for the game and its warriors resides in a separate compartment - let's call it my heart - to the one from where my punting intent manifests, and rarely the twain doth meet].

How can I use sectional timing?

As with all pieces of the puzzle, the most important thing to say is that you don't have to use sectional data to make good betting decisions. If you currently get on just fine using form profiling, trainer patterns, pace/draw, or any other methodology, feel free to carry on regardless.

But, just as I have long banged the drum for the value of a greater awareness of early pace in races, I think sectional information takes us to another level of comprehension of what happened and why - and, far more importantly, perhaps, what might (or might not) happen today as a consequence of what we understand of the previous days.

If you already use the geegeez pace maps, sectional timing information will help you understand more fully what happened. It will contextualise one horse's performance in the race macro. And that will help you make better, more informed betting decisions.

Why are you telling me all this?

Two reasons, one narrow and one broad. Broadly speaking, knowledge is power when betting. A company called Total Performance Data has been recording sectional timing information for more than three years at some of the all-weather tracks. They have more recently extended their coverage to all of Sky Sports Racing's tracks (with the exception of Ascot).

Racing TV's umbrella company, Racecourse Media Group (RMG), has - via its own supplier, CourseTrack - also been gathering sectional timing information since late summer.

A year from now sectional timing data will be available for all tracks in UK (with the possible exception of Chelmsford) and, via the specialist racing channels first - but with some noteworthy interjections in terrestrial coverage - the language of sectionals and their implications will find their way into the conversation.

Five years from now, sectional data will be mainstream. Talk of how races will be run will be fundamental cornerstones of the form debate, rather than the last word before a race goes off: "xyz is lining up at the front of the field and he looks like he might lead".

The more narrow point is that geegeez.co.uk will soon start publishing sectional timing information in its Gold racecards. It won't clutter the view for those who have no intention of engaging with it (yet), but it will be there for Gold subscribers of a more curious / time-based nature.

Here are some artist's impressions of how things might look:

Full Result

 

Full Form

 

Cards Inline

 

What next?

At some point before Christmas, sectional timing information for Total Performance Data / Sky Sports Racing tracks will appear within the Geegeez Gold racecards. It will be switched 'off' as default, but with options in your My Geegeez profile to turn it on, either in visual or data format.

Sectional data will be part of the existing Gold provision at least until the end of 2020, after which it may become a paid 'add on' for those who derive value from it. (This content does not come cheap, even before the months of development time/cost have been factored in, and it's been something of a gamble to take it on. That is my problem, of course, and we'll see how things go, but I want to be clear at the outset about the potential to charge separately for this at some point far down the line. Fair enough?)

Alongside the release of sectional data on site, there will be a number of explainer videos and a section (no pun intended) in the User Guide to help you get your feet under the table.

Thereafter, we'll have regular editorial picking up on races of interest from the previous week or fortnight. Sometimes these will be big races, and sometimes they will be races which might have otherwise snuck under the radar.

Super Important

One really important point in closing: I am not by any manner of means expert in inferring sectional content. I know plenty about running lines and points of call from my exposure to US racing, and I have got up together on such as finishing speed percentages and pars more recently as a result of grappling with their inner workings to help my developers.

I am still learning how best to infer the data, and how best to use it for punting purposes. To that end, I very much welcome comments from those who maybe already use this intel from other sources. And, also to that end, I very much welcome your tolerance if/when I/we make a mistake in presentation.

When the sectional content arrives on site it will be in BETA mode. That means it might be imperfect, and I welcome your support in resolving any glitches.

This is an innovative new frontier as far as British racing - and geegeez.co.uk coverage of it from a form perspective - is concerned. I'm excited to see where it takes us...

Matt

Why Sectionals Matter

Galileo Gold wins at Royal Ascot. Sectional times tell us how good a performance this was.

Galileo Gold wins at Royal Ascot. Sectional times tell us how good a performance this was.

One of the more surprising stories to emerge from Irish racing in the past few weeks was a revelation from Johnny Ward of the Racing Post that SIS plan to back the establishment of sectional timing at all Irish tracks from the start of 2017, writes Tony Keenan. This news was unexpected on a number of levels, not least because Irish racing is essentially backward in nature, and whether it comes to fruition or not, be it in 2017 or beyond, remains to be seen.

But I for one would be strongly in favour of not only their use but the idea that they could be widely disseminated to the betting public and it is hoped this initiative is not a pipedream. The reasons why sectional times matter have been covered many times before, and often by bigger and better brains than mine, but even so it is worth restating their benefits here, if only to put my views on record. Much of the focus of these articles is on punting as that is the perspective I feel best qualified to represent but for this one I have tried to keep the focus away from mere gambling and look at the industry as a whole.

 

  1. Reading Races Better

The central cog to the sectionals argument, the one that most the other benefits stem from, is that these times allow for much better race reading. Pace is a vital component of any race, as even the most limited club runner who has gone off too fast or finished with running to give in a 10k race can tell you, and the naked eye simply cannot capture as much about pace as a number can. From my own perspective, my understanding of a how a race has unfolded is enhanced greatly by using sectional times to such a point that I now find that my reviews of races without these times are missing something.

There are a number of punters currently either taking their own sectional times or using Timeform’s archive of the same and they have an edge; from experience I can say that sectional upgrade horses are often underbet in the market now. The public availability of these times, and the eventual understanding of what they mean, could erode this edge to a degree but punters who want it to continue as such are being selfish; a strong sport is better for everyone.

Moreover, this sort of data-rich sporting landscape is exactly what the modern fan wants, indeed expects. Analytics may have been born in America with the likes of Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders, but such methods are over here now in soccer (yes I do call it soccer) through people like Michael Cox of Zonal Marking; and bringing something similar to racing would surely attract more followers to this most complex of sports.

 

  1. Early Talent Identification

The fact that a number of racing yards, not least Ballydoyle, already use their own sectional timing in training their horses speaks plenty about how useful they can be and it can certainly help those go-ahead stables in ascertaining what they have from an early stage. This applies on the track, too, where horses like Golden Horn have stood out from an early stage on the clock. So, while it is only one method of talent evaluation and may get horses wrong, it seems as reliable as any purely visual approach: indeed, it would be best if both methods were combined.

If we can understand a horse’s sectionals within overall times we are able to place them in a historical context and get a sense of where they might fit in terms of ability, for instance by looking at all the sectionals at a given track over a period of time. This would not only help punters but also owners, trainers and breeders. The owner might spot an undervalued horse he wishes to buy; the trainer might become better at rating his horses from an early stage and thus place them more appropriately; and the breeder can know what sires or dams might be over- or underrated.

 

  1. Accurate Rating of Jockeys

One of more interesting developments in American sports analytics has been the idea of WAR or Wins Above Replacement, a number that rates how superior a player is to a limited (or replacement level) alternative and is basically one of the best ways of evaluating how good a player is. I have a dream that we will one day have a WAR statistic for jockeys that will allow us to properly discuss their respective skillsets and abilities, because so often analysis of riders now boils down to the ‘how many winners have you ridden’ argument.

Sectionals could play a part in this sort of analysis and, over the course of Royal Ascot, they were able to inform on a number of poor rides that the oft-unimpeachable Ryan Moore gave over the few days: importantly, with the substantial logic to back this up. Of course, there is more to evaluating a jockey; these figures would not be able to put a value on how good a jockey is at riding work or dealing with connections or providing feedback on a horse. But to say that such numbers are useless would be as wrong-headed as to say they are everything.

Not only would such times help us to properly rate jockeys but they might even improve race-riding as jockeys become aware of mistakes they are making. Every jockey gives bad rides as race riding is simply too dynamic for anything else, but we have far too much preciousness around criticising them at present. Arming ourselves with the facts and not personalising these critiques would go a long way to building a proper analysis – and development – framework for jockeys.

 

  1. Improvements in Integrity

If sectional times allow us to rate rides better, then surely they can also be used for integrity purposes, providing the authorities with facts and data - rather than the current opinion and conjecture - to support their battle for a cleaner sport. The Turf Club have suffered some high-profile defeats in integrity case appeals this year and it is ironic that one of the central arguments that saw Barry Geraghty and Tony Martin exonerated in the Noble Emperor case came from sectional timing as Donn McClean explained how the horse was making up little to no ground on the winner late on.

It is bizarre that the defendants rather than the prosecution was using this approach and it makes sense that stewards on the track would have access to such data at the time rather than merely after the event, perhaps comparing them to historical events. Rightly or wrongly (and it’s wrongly if you ask for my view), Irish racing has a reputation for skulduggery, a sort of nod-and-wink conspiracy that we’re ok with horses being none too busy. Sectional times could certainly play their part in improving this perception and making our racing more appealing.

 

  1. Opens New Data Horizons

There is a sense from some racing people that it’s cool not to be interested in sectional times, or times of any kind for that matter, and it is almost as if the ‘sectionals boys’ are being set up against the traditionalists, much like the scouts and the data nerds in ‘Moneyball.’ Even the term ‘sectional boy’ is dismissive and I find it disappointing that many in the industry, not content with adopting an ‘each to their own’ philosophy, seek to actively block developments in this area.

I am for more and more data and sectional timing is part of this; if you want to know about wind operations and weights of horses then already having gotten the sectional times can only help you get this information. Data begets data. With all this information, people can then decide what they do and don’t want to use; maybe ten-year trends are your thing: if so, good luck to you, I won’t stand in your way.

The establishment of sectional times in Irish racing would demand higher standards around going reports and measurements of race distances both of which are badly needed and could eventually lead to the sort of next level data that makes modern sports analytics so interesting. But only if we in racing allow it…

- Tony Keenan

Racing and Data Analytics

James Knight, head of racing at Coral, last week put out three tweets that pretty much summed up where our sport is at in its relationship with data and analytics, writes Tony Keenan.

I’m biased of course but couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that racing is the best of betting sports; it has a complexity that few, if any, other sports can match and this is one of its most appealing factors. This complexity lends itself to the creation of data from the nuts and bolts like ground, distance and form to deeper factors like breeding, times and run styles; the list really is endless. But racing, despite some progress lately, doesn’t exploit this extensive data to its full potential.

Much of this is cultural and I mean that not only within racing itself but with a broader Irish, British and European approach to engaging with sport. On this side of the Atlantic, statistics and numbers are not ingrained into the psyche of the sports fan as they are in America. This is changing, however. Take the company Football Radar for example – you can watch a clip introducing their methods here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2ee1GoQdeI) – and you see what can be done with the analysis of soccer.

The Americans do it on a whole different level of course with data-heavy websites like Football Outsiders and Baseball Prospectus, though if you want to read a more palatable version of the numbers then Grantland is the place to go where writers like Bill Barnwell, Jonah Keri and Zach Lowe synthesise the vast array of statistics into cogent and well-written arguments. It’s all very mainstream in the States but it boils down to one thing; these numbers help explain why things happen and how sport works so this is something we should want for racing. And lest we forget, they have extensive betting utility too!

It’s important to differentiate between old and new data. By old data I mean the fundamentals that make up racing from age to weight carried to trainers. These basic details have been around forever but that’s not to say you can’t garner new insights from them; the book and film ‘Moneyball’, a prime example of sports analytics reaching the masses, shows this as Billy Beane/Brad Pitt exploits the perception that batting average was more valuable than on-base percentage in baseball.

We’re getting better at interpreting these old numbers in racing too and we now have access to the tools to do so; databases like Horse Race Base, and of course Geegeez mean we can put our own filters on the data and find betting angles that were hitherto hard to calculate. We’ve learned that some numbers are better than others and by better I mean have more predictive value; pure strikerate is a fair indicator of success or otherwise but figures like impact value, actual over expected and percentage of rivals beaten give a truer insight.

But it’s the new data that really interests me. Again, the Americans have led the way. Football Outsiders, the doyens of NFL analysis, use volunteers to chart the minutiae of each play and you can now see data on all the moving pieces of on-field actions, including the once-anonymous offensive lineman and cornerbacks, not just the skill positions like quarterback and wide receiver. Baseball is arguably even more advanced where each major league stadium has installed a PITCHf/x system which charts the trajectory and speed of every pitch thrown in the game. I have even read articles lately where they now have the technology to tell how much spin each pitch has and these are balls moving at upwards of 90 miles per hour.

Racing too has many areas where new data can be introduced, and chief among them has to be sectional timing. I have to admit to being a devotee of sectionals and an admirer of Simon Rowlands and his team at Timeform who have done so much in terms of education with the subject and in building a database of times for racing in the UK. I do some sectional timing of my own and they certainly have betting application with pace being so important in the outcome of a race.

Establishing sectional times at every track in Britain and Ireland would obviously be expensive but I would be surprised if it doesn’t come around eventually; in the interim racecourses need to get on board with people doing their own times and play ball in terms of getting the race distances right and advising of any changes as well as making furlong markers visible. The same applies to TV stations who can provide on-screen clocks and suitable camera angles that aid taking sectionals. Taking these figures can be a little laborious, especially when camera angles make things difficult, and I look forward to a day when the data is provided and I only have to interpret it.

An extension of sectional times is the use of GPS in tracking the exact movement of horses within a race as each animal carries a chip to relay back information about its race position. We have only really seen this used in Dubai (where there is obviously an unlimited pot of money to spend on racing) and at the Breeders’ Cup, with the American company Trakus charting the specific breakdown of how each race went, but the numbers are fascinating. Not only does this provide us with the times for each horse but it also reveals the cost in distance of racing wide, an-0ften underrated aspect of race analysis over here. Simple physics suggests that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line but we have no way of quantifying the cost of racing away from the rail in Ireland and Britain.

Horse weights are used extensively in Hong Kong, a jurisdiction that many believe is the ideal in terms of racing run for the betting public. Whereas installing sectional timing and/or GPS tracking systems at every track in Britain and Ireland would be costly, the weighing of horses would not. The scales are relatively inexpensive, costing between €3-5,000 each, and it’s not as if horses aren’t used to them with many trainers using them at home. Knight mentioned integrity in his tweets and the weighing of horses would be massive tool in the policing of the sport as the best way to stop a horse is not to give it a ride where it can’t win but rather to leave it half-fit for the race.

The obvious plus to the latter option for the dishonest trainer is that there is no way of proving it with the current system. Were the weighing of horses to become widespread, this would lead into a sort of big data around the published numbers; we could compare animals not just against themselves but also against others and over the years could get a sense of optimum racing weights and what sort of figures suggests a horse is not fit or even too fit and ready to go off the boil.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some aspects of American sports where charters note down the data on each and every play, working within a common framework that standardises the numbers; Football Outsiders do this and the volunteers get access to the information while others have to pay for it. This could certainly apply to racing though perhaps in different areas on the flat and over jumps. On the level, charters could look at the keenness of horses within races. As things stand, we can read in-running lines that say a horse ‘raced keenly’ but there are degrees with this and perhaps a one-two-three scale would be better, with one being not perfectly settled, two taking a right grip, and three pulling the jockey’s arms out thus giving itself no chance.

When this data is compiled, it could be placed alongside other information and provide insights. We would know which trainers’ horses are more keen than others (and which can win being keen and which can’t) and what jockeys are best are settling their mounts. We could find that certain tracks or races run at slower paces produce more keenness or even that how horses race is random. Backers of Golden Horn on his next start would certainly be keen to know this after his hard-pulling effort in the Juddmonte International; what are the chances he does the same next time?

This could also apply over obstacles with a horse’s jumping ability graded one-two-three at each hurdle or fence. Again, we would find out which trainer’s horses jump best and whether bad jumping is repeated from one start to the next; we all have our own ideas on this but it would be better to put a number on it. It could also answer some difficult questions like was Zaarito, who fell three times in 2010 with races at his mercy, one of the unluckiest chasers in recent memory or simply a terrible jumper?

With all this data, there will be things that people get completely wrong, numbers that we use that really have little value. But these blind alleys don’t matter in the big picture as mistakes help push racing analytics on. Big data is here to stay in sport and as fans who have become accustomed to seeing it in other sports, many of us want it in racing too. Let’s hope we don’t get left behind: there is no reason why we should with the amount of technical angles we could exploit.

- Tony Keenan

You can connect with Tony on twitter at @RacingTrends