What are Sectional Times
In laymans terms, every race has an overall time and every horse in the race has an individual
sectional time. The sectional time stated by race callers relates to the last 600 metres
and the electric timer is started as soon as the nose of the first horse (leader) crosses the beam.
When the winning horses nose hits the winning post it breaks the beam which stops the timer,
so now we have an overall time (which started when the barriers opened) and a sectional time.
The sectional time is leader-to-winner, so say the sectional time is 36.00 and the leader at the
600 metre mark stopped to run 8th and the eventual winner came from 3 lengths off the leader
at the 600 to win the winners sectional is 35.50 because it's (36.00 minus .50 seconds for 3 lengths as there is
6 lengths to a second in a thoroughbred race). So if there are 20 horses
in a race there will be 20 sectionals.
Because a horse can get home in say 35.50 coming off the pace doesn't mean it can run the
same sectional if it had to lead. So each horse is an individual and being ridden a
certain way will maximize it's performance. Some horses can run incredible
sectionals, but that doesn't mean they win a heap of races. The classic example
of the last 20 years was Telesto. He could actually break the track record for
1000 metres during his 1600 metre race, but at the end of the day he retired
having won only 3 races (2 were Group 1) from 42 starts. On the odd occasion he'd
actually jump on terms with the field and you'd think the race is all over - he'd
often go ordinary. Historically speaking there is no sanity to it all - and we
are left to think the only reason they perform outstanding efforts is because
they are better "chasers".
There is extraordinary footage available of Shannon racing in the 1946 Doncaster,
back in the strand barrier days, where he was turned the wrong way when the strand
went up and he missed the start by about 100 metres. His jockey, Darby Munro, was
not going to bother contesting the race, but as Shannon was favourite he decided to
chase the Group 1 field, rather than risk getting "strung up" by the huge crowd of
punters. In one of the most amazing efforts captured on video in Australian racing
– Shannon got beaten in a photo by a head. Why then did he not beat the same
horses at his next start by just over 99 metres? So Shannon’s individual overall
time was amazing - probably a world record - but whilst he was recognized as a champion,
he never repeated that one run. The great Bernborough could run such quick last 400
sectionals that he'd blow good horses away coming from 20th on the turn in a Doomben
10,000 - yet if he'd been asked to lead he may well have got beaten.
Knowing sectional times will allow you to work out when a horse has peaked
such that it's following runs will generally be on a downhill movement.
Like climbing Mount Everest, once you are at the summit there is only one way to go - down!