Irish Racing’s Sectional Timing Hurdle

Long past January 2017 commitment

Sectional Timing initially enjoyed something of a chequered history in South Africa and it seems that Irish horseracing is facing its own hiccoughs with implementation.

The  Racing Post reports that the clock is ticking for SIS to deliver on its promise of introducing sectional times for Irish racing, with Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh conceding that existing arrangements could be revisited if SIS fails to fulfil its commitment.

Brown Panther wins Irish St Leger

The ability to dissect and analyse a race through sectional times took on extra significance in the wake of the recent shock Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby result that saw Sovereign come home in front as the 33-1 pacesetter. However, sectional times – and the ability to prove whether Sovereign stole the race courtesy of an easy lead or not – were unavailable due to the lack of technology.

Following trials last year, sectionals were widely available at Royal Ascot last month, in conjunction with Longines, and were well received.

Horse Racing Ireland is awaiting the results of British trials conducted by SIS involving a new system for recording sectionals. If the technology is successful, Kavanagh hopes it can be rolled out on Irish racecourses, but it is a development that has long been kicked down the road.

As part of the media rights deal that was struck between SIS and HRI in 2016, which is worth around £39 million a year, SIS agreed to introduce sectional timing at every Irish course from January 1, 2017. However, that element of the contract has not been delivered.

Racecourse Media Group now owns the rights to broadcast Irish racing, but not the ability to develop sectional timing data.

Kavanagh said: “They [SIS] have the rights to develop sectional timing and as I understand it from them, their initial efforts at that were unsatisfactory.

“At our most recent meetings with them, roughly six weeks ago, they informed us they have gone down a different path and are performing live trials currently with a new system on tracks in the UK. If that works and is satisfactory, it could be adaptable for Ireland, which would be very welcome.”

Previously, questions over the provision of access to the data and the movement of rails on turf tracks have been other complicating factors.

When questioned about the possibility of a change in the implementation of sectional timing in Ireland if SIS didn’t deliver within a certain timeframe, Kavanagh said: “We’ll certainly look into it. Obviously we have a long and historical relationship with SIS so we want to give them the first shot at it.”

Pressed on whether changes to the ownership rights would be possible if the data was still not available by this time next year, Kavanagh said: “We can have a look at it at that stage and take stock.”

Kavanagh admitted that he had hoped the technology would be in operation sooner but believes the priority is to “get it right”.

SIS was contacted for comment but could not be reached.

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