Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our Handicapping System – The death knell of fair racing.

On going through the Handicaps for the first weekend of the upcoming Pune Season 2016, I see some ratings that just don’t make sense to me. I have on many occasions over the years had a word with the handicapper, but there’s always a reason or an excuse that “this is how the system is”. We have turned a blind eye to the fact that the so called system doesn’t work for fair and clean racing/owners. And yeah, the Committee or the Stewards are not supposed to interfere with the handicapper/system. Gentlemen, the system isn’t working. Or can no one see it?

I have picked my own horses as examples here as what hits/affects you the most is what gets you ranting.

Staristocrat, albeit a 5yr old, is rated 93 after winning 4 handicap races and failing miserably in all his attempts in terms races. On what planet then, is a winner of a Gr1. Derby, Bullrun winner of 3 races rated 80? Some might argue that he’s a 4yr old. Fine let’s compare apples with apples. In the same race, Ageless winner of 3 handicap races is also entered and is rated 96. The same race has Classic winner Intelligence rated 85 whereas a handicapper Holy Smoke, winner of 4 races is at 91. So the bottom line is, you have a great horse, win classics, win millions as stake money, then come and piss on the handicappers whenever you feel like as you will receive tons of weight from them.

The system,(not the handicapper as he’s merely stuck with the system) argues that ratings don’t get changed drastically in terms races/classics. Hence winners of even Classics don’t get pushed to class I e.g. Bullrun above. An argument that never made sense to me and one I feel that isn’t fair. However, how and why then do babies get pushed up in class for winning terms races/baby races within their own age group? My Greek God won 3 races as a juvenile in Mumbai and found himself in class II in Pune. It’s always what you beat that counts, not how you win. Though Greek God won easily in all 3 of his starts, all the three fields were dead sets. In all three races, there were only two subsequent winners in class IV – Koala and Fribourg. Both were less than ordinary. No other horse ever won a race between them. That says a lot for the system that pushed the winner into class II as a 3yo. The babies aren’t even given ratings at that stage, so what is argued at times in terms races, that other ratings of the runners are taken into account doesn’t hold good here.

At the end of that season, someone told me “you don’t seem excited, you have the fastest 2yo in the country” to which I said “I don’t think he’s that good. He’s beaten nothing of consequence”. He was a mere handicapper. He did win 2 more races again beating dead sets, reached class I, failed in terms races, and that was the end of that. This is not how a career of a horse should end as a 3yo. Remember Rock Concert? 1980’s? Won 7 races in a row and then found himself in class I. 

So, the system is telling us not to win in Mumbai if you have an ordinary baby, find yourself in bottom of IV in Pune, give one run, come down to V and then start with your gambles and win a few. And then we wonder why the baby races in Mumbai don’t get entries. Whereas if you have a  good horse, you win your millions and classics and post that you will still be rated lower than the handicappers when you finally reach class I as a 4yo. Awesome. Awesome for the lucky few. Awesome for the gambling types who don’t care. The death knell for the sporting owner who is racing for stakes and wanting to go up in class in a fair manner.

Gentlemen, the Handicapper is obviously going by the system. But is the system working ? That’s what is on the table here.