Sectional timing. Does it now have a tail wind?

Home Forums Horse Racing Sectional timing. Does it now have a tail wind?

This topic contains 8 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Gingertipster Gingertipster 1 week, 4 days ago.

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  • #1448230
    admin
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    Some discussion on twitter on the ‘value’ or otherwise of sectional timings prompted by former Racing Post editor Bruce Millington’s provocative statement that “…sectionals just aren’t very interesting or useful. Waste of money.”

    This provoked, as I am sure was intended, a flurry of arm-waving from incensed supporters, notably this from Declan Meagher: “Anyone who doesn’t find great value in sectionals for reading a race properly, either isn’t bright enough to understand what is a simple concept really, or just couldn’t be bothered learning the basics.”

    And so it goes on, not very seemly really but it kind of illustrates, I think, that sectionals have turned a corner of some sort.
    After years of the racing establishment and racing media being vaguely interested but generally luke-warm on the topic, certainly in terms of investment, there is, it appears to me, a little bit of a gold-rush going on with At The Races, who carry sectionals for a variety of courses, Timeform, long since supporters and data and analysis providers as you might expect, and Racing TV, who announced with a bit of fanfare this very morning that sectionals for races at the July meeting at Newmarket this week will be available 30 mins after the conclusion of each event, all eager to embrace and publicise sectionals to attract people to their products. They obviously believe, or know, that the demand is growing. The Racing Post doesn’t seem that interested, perhaps a legacy of Millington’s involvement, but I sense that will have to change.

    So, there seems to have been a shift. I think a lot of credit for that shift must sit with Simon Rowlands (Rowleyfile, as I am sure we will remember him, in his days as a regular TRF contributor). Simon has long been an articulate advocate of sectional timing and his columns on Timeform and At The Races which have sought, successfully, to demystify the technical aspects of sectional analysis have, I think, been very influential in this analytical tool attracting widespread interest and support.

    Simon has backed that up with a very successful tipping column, the ‘proof of the pudding’ in terms of how the type of insights offered by sectional analysis can aid winner and value finding.

    James Willoughby is another who has long supported the cry for the provision of sectional data. Millington’s comments, which do seem odd and which may be more political and/or the result of historical personality differences, must seem incredulous to them, as they are to many of us.

    I’m a fan. I think it is fairly obvious that sectional data can pinpoint clues to a horse’s ability (or lack of) before that horse has necessarily shown its hand in term of ‘form’ in the traditional sense. Knowing the pace a race is run at in its various stages can be vital to understanding what ‘really happened’ and no one could creditably claim that there is any other way than sectional data to measure the pace of a race with any degree of accuracy.

    There are instances where historical sectionals point to a horse having a better chance in a race than the market estimates so I think they provide, as Simon continues to illustrate, an edge. The one caveat I have is that the more popular sectional analysis becomes, the less valuable it may become be to a punter, in the same way as other ‘edges’ have disappeared or have become less profitable (the draw bias angle for example) as they’ve become more widely analysed or highlighted. I’d quite like it if sectional data was available but nobody took much interest in it!

    So what does TRF think? Does anybody regularly use sectional data analysis as part of their bet finding processes or strategies? Do you think provision of such data is something that will, as has been suggested, make the sport more attractive to people, draw more people in? Will it revolutionise form study or provide yet more inconsequential and insignificant noise, or somewhere in between?

    If sectional timing were a horse, it’d surely now be running its fastest furlong to date.

    Cormack

    #1448234
    jackh1092
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    I like the idea of it and i am very interested to read the pieces written each week by Simon Rowlands in particular. Also, i am enjoying looking through horses i might back on ATR and seeing their data for previous races etc. However, i haven’t come to a stage where i am using a sectional performance to outline a bet for me.

    There seems to be a massive push for them to be published by their users ie, Rowlands. I just wonder why they are so keen for everyone to use them? Wouldn’t that take a lot of their edge?

    Twitter: Jackh1092
    Hindsight is 20/20 so make the most of it!

    #1448237
    KevMc
    KevMc
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    • Total Posts 977

    It doesn’t need a tailwind anymore, both ATR & RTV tracks are now going to have full sectionals. RTV are staggering the roll-out starting with big meetings with the first being this July meeting which starts today.

    https://www.racingtv.com/news/timing-data-to-be-published-after-every-race-at-newmarket-s-july-festival

    I agree Jack, don’t really see the full urgency for it when it’s part of the edge for the likes of Simon & Hugh although in Simons aspect i imagine he has earned a good bit of coin from the complex implementation of the data to simply this to graphs and colour codes for ATR.

    Personally i could do without sectionals, but it’s an area that gives me another angle into a horse or specific race that was run. Cadence info the same, not something i’ll weigh heavier than form etc. but it’s something i’ll keep in mind.

    #1448238
    Gingertipster
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    Am dreading sectional timing being publicised and far more punters taking it up. Is something I use in my analysis and often gives me an edge. May not do so in future.

    It should not be a stand alone aspect of form, needs to be included with everything else. Sectional times are one thing but if it doesn’t act on the ground you’re knackered.

    The words “sectional timing” gives the impression of being too difficult for the normal punter to understand, over-complicating which puts many punters off. Yes, it has to be based on figures, but what we’re really talking about here is Pace. How the pace of a race gave some horses an advantage and some a disadvantage. ie Some worth upgrading their rating because they’ve done particularly well given how the race was run and as a consequence likely to be under-estimated/good (value) bet in subsequent race/s. For some horses the rating it has appeared on basic form to have run to is reduced and a big fat question mark placed on its form. May not be able to reproduce the form unless given the exact same pace advantage and therefore likely to be over-bet in subsequent race/s – poor value.

    I had a discussion yesterday in the July Stakes thread in Big Race Discussions. It’s evident that many punters don’t understand time, full stop. Some imply Visinari being favourite today is all about reputation or only won a novice and has to prove he can do it in a Group 2… And yet he’s put up a time that only Group 2 standard of horses can achieve in a truly run race – he’s already got proven ability.

    However, a better overall time in a maiden/novice than a Group race on the same card does not necessarily mean the maiden has put up as good a performance. Some in the racing media and/or punters themselves highlight these; wrongly believing the novice to be a good thing. Unfortunately, when it fails people are put off timing as a sourse of analysis. But usually the Maiden/Novice’s overall time only compares well with the Group race because the former is truly run and latter is slowly run. Sectional times/pace needs to be taken in to account.

    Of course there are things to look out for visually in a race that point a punter in the right direction regarding pace. Horses pulling can mean a slow pace and some being pushed along early can mean a strong pace etc. But these things can also be misleading. With sectionals there is no doubt and a punter is able to know even when there’s no tell tale visual signs.

    value is everything
    #1448263
    LostSoldier3
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    Slightly bizarre post from Admin – like somebody arriving to the party just as they’re clearing up and turning off the lights. Sectional timing now has such a major influence that, as Gingertipster says, it’s almost at the point of losing its edge when the data becomes more widely publicised and understood. As the meaty P/L stats of Simon Rowlands show, the sectional edge is just undeniable. It isn’t even worth debating.

    Bizarrely, I understand we the GVC bookies are the only ones who subscribe to sectional data. I know compilers at 365 and Hills who are bizarrely reluctant to embrace them. Hear there’s also a senior element at Paddy Power/BFS with a similarly retrograde stance. Since these firms are often among the first to go ‘live’ with markets, perhaps the edge will last a little longer!

    From a personal point of view, I think sectionals have turned my punting inside out in the past couple of years. The bets you DO have are as valuable as the ones you DON’T have. Every day I see horses with profiles that I would probably have backed in the old days of my betting pre-enlightenment, but if the data shows they have been flattered or just haven’t done a time in the right ballpark, I pass them over.

    For example – a horse like Ranch Hand in the Bahrain Trophy was a good one for sectional analysis. On the face of it, his quietly eyecatching staying-on 5th in the Lingfield Derby Trial (ahead of fav Eagles By Day) might have tempted me once upon a time. Crucially, the data showed his times left him a good 15lbs short of the standard required.

    One thing I would say is that you still need a good sense of context and solid all-round punting smarts to go alongside your sectional data. Good interpretation is vital. I think that’s why Simon Rowlands is particularly successful – his analysis also includes thoughts on the other vital factors like ground, likely pace, course characteristics, draw etc and whether the horse is actually value at the market price. That sets him apart from some of the lesser sectionalistas like Will Hoffman and Andy Holding who I find overly data-driven and lacking a good feel for the rest of it. I understand both are still small winners over a decent sample, which just shows how strong the edge is – Holding in particular puts up quite few terribly poor value selections but finds enough sectional gold to make up for it.

    #1448271
    cormack15
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    “Slightly bizarre post from Admin – like somebody arriving to the party just as they’re clearing up and turning off the lights”

    You might have a point, LS, if we (including me) hadn’t been discussing the topic on here for at least 20 years. It’s been a long party, maybe you were in the kitchen.

    The thread was started to reflect on and discuss the lively debates currently taking place on the topic between leading media figures and I thought it’d be of interest, which I think it is.

    #1448297
    Gingertipster
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    I don’t think the sectional times edge is disappearing yet, LS. But how long the edge lasts will depend on how many punters want to change the way they bet. Many are set in their ways. Seeing any occasion a horse loses as proof sectional times don’t work, rather than looking at overall results. Hopefully our edge will last another decade

    value is everything
    #1448319
    LostSoldier3
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    You’re right about the Luddites being set in their ways. The schadenfreude on Twitter (and indeed on here) after Visinari’s defeat in the July Stakes was shameful, short-termist and results-oriented. James Willoughby and Simon Rowlands are innovators and (for Rowlands in particular) their records stand up to scrutiny. Yet after one (very narrow) reverse for a sectionals/stride length/cadence pickout, I saw both men derided as “guessers” and “frauds”. As Willoughby said, what to the naked eye might just have been an ordinary Newmarket maiden winner ran to 105+ yesterday.

    What price would Visinari have been in that market 15 or 20 years ago? 4/1+ most likely. Guildsman would have gone off favourite I’m sure.

    You say the edge remains GT, but in real terms I think it is harder to get on the sectional NAPs. You’re OK if you’re content to bet to take out a few hundred, but what if you’re looking to get on with scale?

    Visinari is a great example. For a decent quality race like the July Stakes, the juicy prices do exist at first since Hills, Paddy, 365 etc compilers currently don’t believe in the value of sectionals. With Visinari, the snowball effect started very early indeed. The fiddlers at WH & 365 initially went up 4/1. As Timeform, Willoughby and Rowlands had been vocal on social media about Visinari’s freakish debut performance pretty much as soon as he passed the post, that 4/1 was soon gobbled with most firms cutting to 5/2.

    Then, still 5 days before the race, Andy Holding tipped Visinari at 5/2 (unprecedented 4pts win advised). Suddenly we (who had never been bigger than 2/1 and fancied it quite strongly at the prices) were laying it and top price with a sea of blue around us on Oddschecker. Bear in mind the limits that bookmakers will typically set for a 2yo non-G1 ante-post race like the July Stakes – this race was ‘online only’ and not available in retail for most firms. Most will allow a ‘clean’ unexposed online account to bet to take out £500 on a race like this. Personally, that’s not enough for me to be satisfied for a standard bet.

    Skip forward to the day before the race. At around 14:00 Simon Rowlands tipped Visinari (I think at 6/5 or 11/10) in his influential AtTheRaces column. By 16:00 *THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE*, Visinari is now EVS across the board. By 11:00 the next morning (when online limits are raised right up and retail firms are offering their Lay To Lose Guarantee, he’s 5/6 and all value is gone.

    So, assuming you have three or four decent online accounts, how much might you have got on Visinari @ 7/4+ in this market? If you were lucky (and accounts consistently carving up weak ante-post markets are not treated kindly), perhaps you’d have backed him to take out £2000. In the old days perhaps Visinari’s price might have held @ 7/2+ on the day of the race and you could easily have backed him to win at least 10x that amount.

    So it does depend on what you’re hoping to win, I think, especially if you focus your attention on good quality ‘TV’ racing. My speciality is low-grade racing (C5, C6, C7). Again you have the issue of low limits and trying to keep accounts open, although usually there isn’t such a problem with the big data-driven tipsters ruining your prices. Value does seem to last much longer with the core day-to-day stuff.

    #1448322
    Gingertipster
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    tbh Visinari was such a big sectional times racehorse that it probably did not fully make the case odds-wise. What with Rowlands, Willow, Holding etc all tipping him, he wasn’t as big a price in the last few days as sectional times usually bring. All horses have a price that is too short and imo Visinari’s came and went. I got on at 5/4 which is still good (5.6% ahead of my workings out is better than my average bet). But I had him as a fair 50% (equal chance of winning and losing). 4/6 was – even as a Visinari fan – silly. No way did he have a 60%+ chance. Even with all the sectional times evidence at their fingertips going in to the race, Timeform only had Visinari 2 lbs ahead of Guildsman.

    When there’s far less publicity there’s far more value. So I can see why you say there’s more value in lower grade race sectionals. But as long as there’s a little less publicity in Group races – there’s still excellent value around.

    value is everything
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