Simon Rowlands branches out to the other UK all-weather tracks in his Sectional Debriefs, starting on the fibresand at Southwell...
"Horses tend to race harder, from further out, on fibresand at Southwell than at any of the polytrack courses, and it is often the case that only a handful still count turning in..."
Fans of all-weather racing at Kempton have had a lean time of things of late, with the course requisitioned for jumping over the Christmas period and next due to see proper action on January 8. There are, of course, three other AW tracks in existence in the UK, and Timeform has standard sectionals and extensive data from them. So, in order to pass the time until Kempton returns, I will take a look at each of them in the next few days, starting with Southwell, which saw in the New Year on Wednesday.
The first thing regular readers are likely to notice is that finishing speeds at Southwell are customarily slower in absolute terms, and slightly slower in relative terms, than at Kempton. This is a function of the layout of the track - Southwell is more galloping - and especially of the surface. Southwell is fibresand, while Kempton is polytrack, and races are more attritional at the former course. Indeed, this would be more apparent still if final-2f or final-1f sectionals were used.
Horses tend to race harder, from further out, on fibresand at Southwell than at any of the polytrack courses, and it is often the case that only a handful still count turning in. This may be the case even if the leaders have strictly gone faster than ideal: horses out the back have not been "held up" but have tried to keep up and have failed.
There are exceptions, and Wednesday's card provided a notable one in the final race over a mile. General Tufto was in the region of 9 lengths adrift at the 3f pole but ran down rivals who had done too much too soon. The "race" finishing speed (that for the leader at the sectional and the leader, that is the winner, at the line) is well below par at 94.6%, but General Tufto's individual sectional was only just below it at approximately 98.9%.
The second, third and eighth - Queen of Skies, Kielty's Folly and Bapak Pesta - did better than the result, but it was only the first-named that hung in there, pulling 10 lengths clear of the rest in going down by just a neck to a horse ridden far more efficiently.
Sectionals have Queen of Skies best in the race by about 3 lengths - with not much between General Tufto, Kielty's Folly and Bapak Pesta for the places - and she becomes the first addition of 2014 to the "to follow" list.
Anyone who has calculated timefigures at Southwell will know that 5f races are problematical. They start in a separate chute at the beginning of the home straight, are the only AW races run in a straight line, and are short of the full advertised distance, at least part of the time. Sectionals help to make sense of them and suggest that the races won by Even Stevens and Ruby Looker were quite efficiently run, with some of the former's rivals tiring enough to exaggerate his supremacy to the tune of a few pounds. The sectional ratings above treat these two 5f races in isolation.
It was a similar story with the win of Masterful Act at 11f earlier on: everything finished slower than par (the first two less so than their rivals), and the margins were somewhat exaggerated. That said, the winner ran a respectable time, and the sectionals in conjunction with this back up his new Timeform Master Rating of 102.
2013 proved to be a profitable one for followers of the Sectional Debrief lists, with 48 of the 125 selections being successful for a profit of 47.68 at Betfair SP before commission (risking 1 pt, whether back or lay), which equates to a return on investment of +38.1%.
Some of the horses on the list have not been seen for a while, so a clear out is in order. The lists now read as follows:
To Follow: Cincuenta Pasos, Desert Wings, Djinni, Janoub Nibras, Killing Time, Mr Greenspan, Pelerin, Picture Dealer, Pretend, Queen of Skies, Rapid Advance, Top Tug, Waveguide, Western Hymn
To Oppose: Forever Cinderella, Kind Invitation, New Colours, Secret Archive