It seems the ride AP McCoy gave Binocular in today’s Irish Champion Hurdle has caused a fair bit of debate. Firstly I should add I place backed Binocular, and place laid Thousand Stars, so I wasn’t best pleased. Immediately after the race I thought if ridden more vigorously between the last two hurdles he would have been 2nd by about 1/2l. I don’t think anyone has a problem with the effort from the last, so the question is, should he have asked for an effort sooner?

When a horse finishes off a race well having been on the bridle longer than horses around them, the common consensus with punters seems to be, he’d have done better had he been asked for an effort sooner, this can be the case, but just as many times its the opposite, and the jockey had maximized his position by holding on to a tiring horse longer, while others shot their bolt. To differentiate between which is which, you need to know a horses finishing speed relative to overall speed. If a horse is finishing much faster than optimal, then it’s likely he could have done better, but if a horse is finishing slower than optimal, then it’s likely he’d have done better held onto longer.

Getting optimal sectionals for jump racing can be hard with rail movements, so for today I’m just comparing the horses times from the 2nd last. This serves the purpose regarding Binocular as it will show if his time from the last was fast or slow relative to his time from the 2nd last to the last.

Horse Name  – Race 2nd last to Last Last to finish Total Optimal last to finish Optimal v Actual
Legal Exit-12.25 27.49 14.29 41.78 13.99 -0.29
Urano-12.25 27.77 15.04 42.81 14.34 -0.69
Smithfield-12.25 28.3 15.13 43.43 14.55 -0.57
Glens Melody-12.55 28.61 14.64 43.25 14.49 -0.14
Jennies Jewel-12.55 29.24 15.45 44.69 14.97 -0.47
Zuzka-12.55 29.33 15.54 44.87 15.03 -0.5
Pont Alexandre-1.25 28.77 14.48 43.25 14.49 0.01
Sizing Gold-1.25 29.77 15.13 44.9 15.04 -0.08
Our Vinnie-1.25 31.52 16.14 47.66 15.96 -0.17
Hurricane Fly-1.55 29.9 14.91(edited by 0.5sec) 44.81 15.01 0.1
Thousand Stars-1.55 31.58 15.11 46.69 15.64 0.53
Binocular-1.55 30.46 14.95 45.41 15.21 0.26
Shariyan-2.30 31.24 14.48 45.72 15.31 0.83
Sammy Black-2.30 31.58 14.89 46.47 15.57 0.68
Talbot Road-2.30 31.68 15.19 46.87 15.7 0.51
Totals 225.37 672.61 33.5%

The Above table shows the 1st 3 home in each of today’s hurdle races, and their respective times from the 2nd last to the last, and from the last to finish. I’ve deducted 0.5sec (about 2 1/2l) from Hurricane Fly’s time, from the last to finish, as he was eased, and the deduction will help make the overall figures reliable. I’ve then used the combined totals to get an optimal time from the last home. A bigger sample would be better, but with 15 it should still show if horses were finishing very fast, or slowly, relative to the rest of the runners today. I found that the average to get from the last to the line was 33.5% of the total time. Using this I then came up with the optimal way to get from the 2nd last hurdle to the line.

Binocular took 30.46 seconds from the 2nd last to the last, quite slow by today’s standards and he took 14.95 from their home. That time is about average today. The main point though, is if he could have run faster, if asked for an effort sooner than the last. 33.5% of his total time of 45.41, suggests an optimal time from last of 15.21. The fact he did it in 14.95, which is 0.26 sec quicker than optimal, would indicate he finished with a bit of running in him, and could probably have gone a bit faster if asked for more between the last two. It wouldn’t however suggest he could have done much better, although its likely he would have been 2nd.

You can only judge a ride on the decisions a jockey makes, at the time he had to make them. AP clearly knew his horse wasn’t fully fit and needed to be nursed to get home. He waited till the last to ask for an effort. As it turns out the horse maybe had a little more left than he thought, but only fractionally so, and if he had got after him a few strides earlier, he probably would have been 2nd. That said if he had asked him for more as soon as he jumped the 2nd last, its almost certain the horse would have bottomed out, and been beaten further. Nobody would have been complaining then, although it would have been a worse ride.

For further reading on Optimal Sectionals I suggest Simon Rowlands: How to use sectional times for profitable betting

Don’t forget to make sure you sign up to multiple bookie accounts so you can always get on at the best price, and you can also avail of the generous Free Bet offers while your at it.

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