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Punting Pointers: Sectionals

Punting Pointers is an eight-part series aimed at educating punters to help take their wagering aptitude to the next level. Brad Gray sought the insights of five of the most respected industry figures when it comes to punting, form analysis and bookmaking.

Sectionals aren’t new to racing but it’s fair to say they are certainly more mainstream as punting tool simply due to their accessibility through the likes of Punters’ Intel. Just because they are easier to track down doesn’t mean they are any easier to understand or implement though. Below offers an insight into how our five experts not only use sectionals but their place in the larger form puzzle.

Dominic Beirne (@domran)

Sectionals are a very intricate study and extremely important. One of the dangers of sectionals though is the misinterpretation of what is valuable. We have been doing sectionals since the 80s and it’s become extremely popular more recently hence the value in it is being a little overplayed.

You’ve only got to watch the replay to know that a horse that came from 13th and ran fourth probably ran the fastest sectional. But is that a prospective way of making money over time? Finding the horses that run home to run fourth or fifth all the time?

Punter's Intel is an interactive sectional tool free for download

Rob Waterhouse (@RobWaterhouse)

Sectionals are one of those things that everyone I know thinks are wonderful but wish they could master. And I fall into that category. I’d like to make better use of them but I haven’t been able to find a way. Having said that, I am certainly aware of them, and the horse that runs a big sectional, but actually winning on the punt using sectionals I think is a hard job.

Nathan Snow (@snowbet)

They are the new fad. They’ve been around forever though. I used to own a stop watch and clock them off the television. It’s just the technology has changed. It’s a massive time saver now. They are just a piece of the puzzle. They are an important piece but they are not the be all and end all.

The key with times is they are so fraught with danger when comparing them from different days. So much can change – the wind, grass length, track moisture, rail position – all sorts of factors. If you are just starting out and you want to look at times I’d start by comparing them on each day. In terms of comparing times across different meeting at different tracks, it’s something you have to leave to the sophisticated algorithms. They’ve got banks of data that knows how to compare times properly whereas for anyone starting out, it’s impossible. When I was starting out I would keep data on each track and that would give me a guide on how they were playing, and the merit in each horse’s run.

(Sectionals) confirm what you are seeing most of the time. After watching so many races it’s like you’ve got a clock in your head sometimes, but you need that confirmation.

In particularly I look for the 600 to 400m sprint and how that relates to their overall 600 to the finishing split because most horses have got a sprint for 200-300m, maybe 400m at best, so any horse that is doing excess work from the 400 to the 600m is a penalising factor. Especially if it is around a bend which they generally are.

How the sectional breakdown is displayed on Punters' Intel

Daniel O’Sullivan (@TRBHorseRacing)

The first thing I would say is that I never look at raw sectionals. Over 15 years I’ve established systems to rate times and sectionals so they can be compared across tracks, distances, provincial to city.

There is no one key thing I look at it. It’s more about understanding what each horse has done in the context that it was presented with. For example, horses that run in slow run races are never going to run fast time so it is pointless looking at the overall times and trying to asses that but with the right tools and techniques you can identify top class performances. The same can be applied in reverse where horses might run fast time but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a strong race. Horses can run a fast last 200m or 600m split but it needs to be interpreted in the context how fast they went early. It’s a multifaceted type of approach.

John Walter (@J_Walter23)

They are a checking tool for mine. Looking at vision, trying to work out what happened in a race and then checking sectionals. When a few different sectionals are put together – say they go quick early, stack up and then go quick again late as opposed to quick all the way through, the overall time paints some sort of picture but not the overall picture. Those sort of things are still underplayed. The anchor drops are hugely advantageous to a video watcher because that sort of makeup to a race really hinders a lot a horses and helps others and they are unlikely to go into that kind of race at their next start.

Some sectionals paint a truer picture than an overall time. If they match the vision or not, there is an advantage either way so sectionals are huge to give you the truth as to what really happened.

The last 200m is probably the most important. Even the last 100m and the last 50m if you can get it. That’d be the most important sectional in reviewing meetings as strength through the line is really important to me, but overall I don’t pay too much attention to one particular sectional. It’s more as an overall. Time to the 600m and then the last 600m to see what they have done paints a really quick picture of tempo. Then if you want to interrogate them further because you have seen something else they are always good to have there but I don’t use any particular sectional religiously.

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