When viewed in isolation, sectional times (in particular final 600m) don’t tell the full story a lot of the time.
Slow times don’t always equate to slow horses, and conversely, fast times (final 600m) don’t necessarily mean a horse is exceptional.
Race tempo is a crucial factor when it comes to sectionals. Often, races turn into tactical affairs where the leaders slow the pace to a crawl and then sprint home.
In these circumstances, the final 600m sectional will be fast, and it should be, because the leaders have had it all their own way up front.
Wind is another factor which can have a massive impact on sectional times, one that is often totally ignored by rank-and-file punters, and sadly some average jockeys.
On-pace horses forced to work hard into a strong headwind in the first part of a race, can often be forgiven for weakening in the run home.
Many tracks have defined wind patterns, especially in summer.
Warwick Farm in Sydney is a good example, particularly in winter where a strong southerly will often arrive late in the afternoon.
This southerly has a huge impact on sectional times in races from 1000m up to a mile, as horses are forced to work hard directly into the breeze for a substantial part of the race.
The Ascot and Belmont tracks in Perth are another prime example.
Often, horses in the early races will run quicker times than those later in the day.
This is because the ‘Fremantle Doctor’, as it’s known, arrives in the afternoon from the west/south west up to 25 knots.
At Ascot (and Belmont) they are running straight into this wind down the back of the track approaching the turn, so on-pacers are at a distinct disadvantage.
Many other tracks also have defined wind patterns which can and do affect what happens in a race.
We constantly monitor wind conditions on race day, as they can change direction and speed rapidly.