In a new feature for Adiyat Racing Plus, Racing TV presenter, time analyst and Dubai Racing Club regular, Angus McNae drills down in the data from Friday’s opening fixture at Meydan and finds a juvenile performance of merit.
Race analysis without post race data involves, at best informed opinion at worst guesswork. This is because the naked eye can never be as accurate as a stopwatch or a tracker. Analytics in sport help to make sense of actual performance and this is as true in horseracing as it is in football or Formula 1. As another season gets underway at Meydan, the use of data can aid race analysis and the understanding of individual performances. The Turf and Dirt tracks at Meydan require different approaches as racing on the two surfaces takes place at different tempos.
Early pace on the dirt is key for horses to adopt a good position out of the kickback, whereas late pace on the turf is key where horses are required to quicken off a slower pace than is usually found on the dirt. The study of sectional times can determine how fast each horse ran through each individual furlong of a race. A good point of reference is to use 12 seconds as being the indication of an evenly-run furlong, although that number would be under 12 seconds in sprints. These sectionals can be used to calculate a Finishing Speed Percentage (FSP) for each horse. The FSP is a calculation based on the final time of the race in comparison to the time taken to complete the final two furlongs.
The resulting figure expressed as a percentage tells us whether a horse ran the final two furlongs faster or slower than the previous furlongs in the race. Using 100% as being a well rated, evenly run race, it can be deduced that if a horse records a figure of 110% he has finished the race off 10% quicker than he ran the preceding furlongs. This suggests the race was steadily run with horses saving energy for a fast finish. A figure under 100% suggests the race was strongly run with horses slowing down in the final two furlongs compared to earlier in the race, having used their energy reserves early on. The seven thoroughbred races on the Meydan Card last week were all run on the dirt.
Dirt racing is attritional because the early tempo is usually fast and horses rarely quicken on the surface. It is often the case that the horse that simply keeps going best while slowing down wins and therefore we can expect FSP’s on or below 100%. What the data can identify are those horses who buck the trend and do something that marks them out as being out of the ordinary and hopefully we can unearth a few this season. As indicated above most of the races this week were quite evenly run with horses ridden prominently strongly favoured. Visually El Nasseeb looked impressive and the data backs that up.
The race was not as strongly run as others on the card as evidenced by an FSP of 104.06%, but some mitigation lies in the horses in this race being inexperienced two-year-olds. His finishing split of 23.06s was impressive, the next best on the card being Sadeedd recording 24.08s. Even accounting for saving energy in the early part of a steadily run dirt race, El Nasseeb has to be rated as an impressive winner on debut. He has plenty of speed as evidenced by his final two furlong split and whether he could go further is debatable. Whichever is the case, his performance on Friday stamps him as a horse to keep onside moving forward.