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If you have been hibernating for the last five years or perhaps you are easily distracted by the gradual overturning of Brexit or the idea that animal cruelty is the reason for Horse Racing’s decline with the betting public, then you may have overlooked the increasing prevalence of electronic sectional times. At the Races have been publishing sectionals for quite a while now on their web site and they form an integral part of their daily form reporting. It is refreshing to see a racing publication actually attempt to innovate in its provision in a manner that benefits punters, unlike other publications that appear to do exactly the opposite.

Perhaps the main informational gain from sectional times is that they can tell us how a race has been run. We have long had final times for races, for example a 5f race at Epsom may clock 60 seconds but what we have not been aware of is how fast or slow was the first furlong, the second furlong and so on. This is what we mean when we talk about sectionals.

When I was in my twenties and out running 10k road races I recall one particular summer when I was in rude health and fitness. In training I could run 8 miles at 6 minute mile pace. One particular summer Sunday I arrived at a 10k race just outside York and decided to see what it would be like to attempt to run with the elite runners from the start. I wanted to experience that opening pace and see how long I could go with it. If you had asked me before the race what I thought would happen I would have guessed staying with them for maybe half a mile at best. What actually happened shocked me, not only could I not lie up with the leaders at all, well maybe 50 yards, but the effort of trying decimated my whole race. I never attempted it again.

So how can we attempt to measure whether a horse has run an even sort of race which like me maximizes its chance of running its best overall time or perhaps the way it has run has disadvantaged it and of course that disadvantage does not have to come from a kamikaze opening section. It could be suicidal burst somewhere in the race akin to Said Ouita’s outrageous run for home from 500 metres out in the 1983 world athletic championships, handing the gold to Steve Cram.

One approach would be to calculate average times for various sections of races by race distance. In other words what is the average time (sometimes called par time) for the first 2f of say all 5f races. The problem with this is our courses are so different in conformation that the waters would be muddied by a course having a downhill opening section like Epsom compared to a flat or uphill section on another track. We need therefor to calculate average times for sections for each track. There are still problems however, what about the going. A race may appear to have a slow sectional but in fact we are comparing the race run on soft going with the par sectional that on average has been calculated from good going.

In attempt to get around this Timeform have come up with what we could call an in race method of evaluating pace so that we can evaluate whether a horse within a race or the race overall has been run fast, even or slow in terms of its early pace. Let us take a simple example with nice round numbers.

Slowcoach runs in a selling plater over 5f at Epsom, he is particularly slow and finishes the race in 100 seconds covering the final 2f in 30 seconds. We can calculate the relationship of his final 2f to his overall time with a little Math.

His overall time we will call OT
His final section time we will call fst
The distance of the final sectional we will call sd
The overall race distance we will call D.

The relationship between the sectional time and his overall time can be expressed as

(OT/fst) X (sd/D) X 100

or in Slowcoach’s case

(100/30) X (2/5) X 100 = 133.33 (race finish percentage for Slowcoach)

Now this is an extreme example after all Slowcoach is pretty darn slow. It’s also a number that may say something about how he ran his race (more on that later although a number like 133.3 might suggest he stopped for a nibble of grass after 2f) but what about how the race was run overall. I mean I ran that 10k race at an inefficient rate for me but maybe the winner ran an even race for him. We can carry out the same calculation for the winner of Slowcoaches race and hence get a number for his/her performance in terms of final sectional vs overall time. This may help us to get a picture of how the race was generally run or at least in terms of the winner.

Let us imagine the winner comes out with a race finish percentage figure of 101.5, the problem is we still do not know what that means. Let’s face it the final uphill 2f at Beverly is likely to produce bigger fst numbers in that equation than the final downhill 2f at Epsom. If you play around with that fst number above you will see that if you increase it the final number gets smaller. So a smaller final number means the horse must have gone faster early in the race hence the increase in the final section or fst time (or perhaps the last 2f is akin to Mount Everest). That is the first thing to take out, bigger race percentage numbers eg 133.33 mean slower early pace. We still do not know if 101.5 however represents fast even or slow early pace unless we have some benchmark to compare to. What we need is an average or median for races run at that track over 5f, in order to get around the Mount Everest problem. If the median comes out at 100 then we know that the 101.5 winner has run slightly slower early on than is perhaps ideal. If his final number is below 100 then he has run faster than ideal early on.

Of course different tracks and distances will have different medians for these race finish percentage numbers, they will not all be 100 but they all give a benchmark with which to compare a horses run with on that particular track.

Try calculating the race finish percentage figure for the following horse using the last 2f as the final sectional fst for this Lingfield race over 8 furlongs.

DIVINE MESSENGER 2f-1f 11.0s 1f-Finish 11.6s Finish/final time of race 97.2s

Now check out your result at by clicking on the sectional tools tab at

https://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Lingfield/08-March-2019/1410

One final point, ATR has a race final percentage figures displayed next to the hotbar. For Divine Messengers race its 107.0. This is not the same as Divine Messengers race percentage figure which is 108.0. This is because the race percentage figure of 107.0 is calculated as follows

Take the race leader time at 2f out, Majestic Moon 74.5
Subtract it from the race winners final time of 97.2 giving 22.7
Use this as the final sectional time in the equation

This is a tricky subject so please feel free to correct any misunderstandings in the above. Please indicate how helpful this was below