What do horse racing commentators mean by sectional times?

GPS allows us to follow horses across each race and accurately time them in splits like they do in F1

Horse racing betting sectional times


When you’re next at the horse racing or watching the action unfold online, you may hear a race commentator talk about sectional times. This is a relatively new phenomenon for horse racing betting fans as the UK and Irish racing industry has only recently realised how useful these time splits are.

But if you’re not familiar with the racecourse or are only now beginning your racing betting journey then “sectional times” may feel like just another chunk of jargon in the complex world of this sport.

Well, Paddy Power is here to explain everything you need to know about sectional times in our latest Demystifying Racing guide. You’ll learn what sectional times are and why they are useful when betting on big races.

What are sectional times in horse racing?

Sectional times are split timings per furlong of a race that indicates how fast a horse is running. For example, a horse racing over a nine-furlong race will have nine sectional times of data. The times will show how the horse ran as the race progressed.

The benefit of sectional times to owners, trainers and jockeys is they can use the data to determine when their horse perhaps went too fast, or too slow. Analysis can aid tactics for a horse heading into its next race as a jockey may opt to hold back more, knowing the horse always charges towards the finish.

Horse racing betting sectional times

Flat racing is usually better for determining sectional times (GETTY)

Over in the US some commentators will provide the race time and sectional time for the last 400m or so. Discussing time splits is more common in America because the majority of races are run on oval tracks, which means there are fewer variables for horses to contend with between its races.

How are sectional time calculated?

The emergence of GPS tracking systems in horse racing has meant sectional times can be accurately gathered for all horses, rather than simply a time split monitored by a race commentator with a stop watch while the action is unfolding.

Light-weight GPS trackers can put easily placed in the saddle and the information beamed back to a central control, where the data is processed. It is hoped that sectional times will in the future be made available in real-time on TV screens, so bettors can use the data to place live bets.

Much like in Formula One where cars are tracked over the splits of the circuit, this GPS data can be used by owners and trainers to ascertain what went right (and wrong!) in a race.

Can sectional times help my bet?

Yes. Getting hold of the sectional time data will certainly help you understand which sections of a race are being run quicker. After all, you’re looking to see if a horse ran at its optimum to get from A (the start) to B (the finish). If the splits are erratic then it suggests the horse didn’t run a smooth race – and this could be why you bet lost.

Should that horse keep running non-optimal times then perhaps it’s worth you looking elsewhere for a smarter bet.



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