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Sectional Debrief Special: Qatar Sussex Stakes, Goodwood
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The Timeform Knowledge: Sectional Analysis
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Sectional Debrief Special: Qatar Sussex Stakes, Goodwood

Simon Rowlands has analysed the sectional times for the Qatar Sussex Stakes and has looked at how it compares to previous renewals.

If you have not yet read Nassim Taleb’s “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder”, then you can doubtless survive for a while longer with that being the case.

In his latest book, the man who brought us such masterworks as “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan” adopts his by-now-customary technique of getting his message across by beating the reader repeatedly over the head with a small number of ideas.

That is not to say that the ideas of Antifragile are without merit. On the contrary, they are profound and useful, but reading about them can be something of an ordeal.

The main thrust of Antifragile (or at least as far as I got with it) is that some things thrive in adversity, uncertainty and chaos. By implication, some other things do not.

The worth of a thing or an idea should be judged not just by how “good” it ostensibly is but by how likely it is to fail, and what the consequences of failing will be.

This applies to horseracing – oh yes – as much as elsewhere, and it applies to sectional timing. High-technology and high-cost sectional-timing solutions have a habit of going wrong, and when they go wrong they tend to go badly wrong. Alternatives do exist.

The electronic sectionals used at Goodwood malfunctioned in a number of unforeseen ways on the second day of this year’s Glorious Goodwood meeting, and those for the Qatar Sussex Stakes – the latest leg in the British Champion Mile Series – took over two hours to be processed. Without live and unambiguous validation, it has to be taken on trust that they are correct.

With that caveat in mind, and having undertaken a small amount of sense-checking, the figures from this year’s contest do convey some fairly straightforward messages.

The overall time of this year’s Sussex Stakes was disappointing for a race of its calibre, and those finishing speed %s – the average speed late in the race compared to the race overall – show that the early pace was on the steady side.

It should have been difficult to come from behind in such circumstances, and, indeed, Solow and Arod filled the first two places from soon after the start (though mostly in the opposite order to at the finish).

Given the run of the race, it was perhaps surprising that they did not come further clear of Gabrial and Here Comes When by the line. Indeed, Gabrial finished best of all according to those sectionals, recording 11.72s for the final furlong compared to Solow’s 11.97s, and gets marginally the biggest sectional upgrade.

Gabrial is no mug, but he is a smart performer rather than better. He did, of course, also finish third in this race in 2012, when he was beaten nearly 10 lengths by Frankel, since when he has won four of his 33 races.

Gabrial is an antifragile horse, as it were, for he stands a lot of racing and tends to perform well when it is most needed.

Solow could be described as such also. For all that this was not his most impressive performance, he managed to win again, making it eight such occurrences in a row. He does not look unbeatable at present, but unbeaten of late is what he is. When things get tough, he finds a way of winning.

Whether Solow would have won had the similarly talented Gleneagles turned up is a matter of speculation. Possibly not, but then Gleneagles was taken out of this year’s Qatar Sussex Stakes – barely plausibly – because the ground (“good” by the time of the off) was supposedly considered to be too soft. That’s not exactly an indication of antifragility.

What resulted was a slightly substandard renewal, in which Solow had to battle rather harder than those who made him long odds-on must have expected to see off a good – but not very good – rival in Arod despite receiving a sound tactical ride.

Perhaps expectations are unreasonably high for the Sussex Stakes given its recent history. The peerless Frankel won it in 2011 and 2012, Toronado defeated Dawn Approach in a high-quality renewal in 2013, and Kingman made an attempt on the land-speed record in the closing stages of his success in 2014.

Different pace profiles make for different races and, at times, very different sectionals along the way. The electronic sectionals for recent editions of the Sussex Stakes are as follows, for comparison:

 
Free Race Pass of the Day
GOODWOOD 3:45
Friday 31st July
8. MOVIESTA (USA) 132

132.6

silk Paul Mulrennan
Edward Lynam, Ireland

7. MOVE IN TIME 131

131.6

silk Jim Crowley
David O'Meara

9. OUT DO 131

131.6

silk Daniel Tudhope
David O'Meara