Any piece of information that can help you beat the racing game – any code! – Has to be treated with the utmost respect. In harness racing you cannot hope to win in the long term without understanding sectional times.

Sectional times are broken down into lead times, quarters of the mile and the Mile Rate. The 'lead time' is the angle we are going to analyse here, and I'll demonstrate how it can put you on to many winners, as well as helping you avoid losers (which is almost as good as wining!).

The 'lead time' (which I will from now refer to as the LT) is the time taken to travel from the start of a race to the start of the last mile (or the mile marker). This LT can tell you a lot about a race, no matter if the time recorded is fast or slow.

Let's assume a LT at Harold Park was run in 23.8s for a race over 1960m - very fast for that particular circuit. How do we use this information as a basis for form analysis? Firstly, we would assume with a LT like this that there was an early tussle for the lead, with maybe two or three runners battling for early supremacy before the field settled into race formation.

Now let's look at the horses that were involved in the early battle. You would have to think that they would have little left at the end of the race.

As an example, we'll say there were two horses involved and one settled in the lead while the other was parked on its outside. If they both dropped out to finish at the rear of the field then it is probably better to ignore the runs altogether. However, if both battled on to finish close-up then it would, I suggest, be safe to say the runs were good and the horses should be followed next outing.

What about the horses who settled back in the field, those that were not involved in the early cut-throat tactics? Well, they should have been making ground at the finish, but if they were, their runs still may have looked better than they were.

If they were not making ground well, avoid them like the plague. There can be little future for backing this type of pacer.

Now we move on to slow LT's. We'll assume a LT at Harold Park over the same 1960m distance but in this example the leaders cover the sectional in 27s - very slowly, in fact.

In this race, we should see the opposite happening, compared with what occurred the fast LT race. The leaders should still be there at the finish, but those who raced in the back half of the field will be finding it difficult to run down the leaders, who will probably have turned on a hot sprint.

If the leaders weaken out of the race, then you should mark them down as pacers to avoid Pt all costs - but if a backmarker, or backmarkers, make up good ground then they should be worth following.

So how do we know a fast LT from a slow LT over different distances at different tracks? The tables below are for the major tracks in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. As a rule of thumb, average LTs are as follows:


1960m Mobile25.00s
2350m Mobile55.50s

1940m Mobile23.00s
2380m Mobile57.50s
ALBION PARK (Brisbane)

2100m Mobile35.50s
For distances over a mile at any track the LT is the first quarter of the mile. Times quicker than the above can be considered fast - the quicker the time the less chance the horses that have created the time stand of being in the finish. Alternatively, any time slower than the above listings can be considered poor and favours the runners who set the pace.

It's quite simple to calculate a LT on any track. Firstly, calculate the distance in metres from the start of the race to the mile marker. To do this, subtract 1609m from the number of metres of the race. For a race over 2000m, the distance to the mile marker is 391m.

Next, we divide the LT by the number of metres to the mile marker. From the above example, let's assume a LT of 28s. Divided by 391 equals 0.0716. Next, you multiply the figure by 4'00m, which equals 28.6, which means that if a pacer runs a lead time of 28s over 2000m it is running at a rate equivalent to 28.6s per quarter.

If the figure (0.0716) was multipled by 800 it would show the horse was running at a rat- equivalent to a 57.3s half. Multiplied by 1609 it would be equivalent to a Mile Rate of 1m 55.2s.

This exercise is handy to convert LTs for your local track, if you're a regular punter there. You will have to hand-time the LT yourself at provincial tracks but at the major tracks the LTs are now done with electronic timing and displayed for all to see. Harold Park LTs are published each week in National Trotguide.

I'll finish with just one example of where the LT approach can pay off handsomely. In the final race at Harold Park on April 29, the LT was run in a below-average 25.2s. In this race, I noted that Beau Tanner had come from last at the 400m mark (when the field began to sprint home, making it difficult for the backmarkers) to run 3rd, beaten 10m.

Beau Tanner was then engaged in a race at Harold Park a week later and won at the great odds of 14/1. This is but one example where careful study of the LTs can pay off. You can get among the winners yourself, I am sure.

To keep track of Harold Park racing, you should cut out and keep the bell and finish pictures in each issue of National Trotguide. They are immensely useful.

Keep in mind that LTs at Harold Park for 1960m races will range from 22s to 28.5s (indicating quarters being run between 25.2s and 32.7s), and for races over 2350m the LTs will range from 51.5s to 60s (indicating halfmiles being run between 56s and 65.1s).

At Albion Park in Brisbane the LTs for races over 2100m range from 32s to 38.5s (indicating quarters being run between 26.2s and 31.5s) and for 2600m races they go from 70s to 79s (indicating half-miles being run between 56.8s and 64.1s).

At Moonee Valley in Melbourne, the LT range for races over 1940m is from 21s to 27.5s (indicating quarters being run between 25.5s and 33.4s) and for races over 2380m the range covers 54s to 62.5s (indicating half-miles being run between 56.3s and 65.2s).

* Noel Ovington is a staff writer for National Trotguide in Sydney.

By Noel Ovington