National Handicapping Agenda - Update

30 June 2017

Following a request for Handicapping Submissions, HRA received some tremendously constructive feedback and proposals from a range of organisations and individuals.


Every proposal and comment received was debated as a part of a National Handicapping Meeting in Melbourne last month and was evaluated  against commonly agreed programming philosophies and measurements to provide:


·        Competitive Racing;

·        Attractive wagering propositions;

·        Racing opportunities for – all ages, classes, abilities and gaits;

·        Full, balanced fields;

·        Prizemoney returns/spread for as many owners as possible; and

·        Encourage racetrack longevity.


Following robust debate, HRA was tasked with the design and testing of a prizemoney based Points Ratings system, in conjunction to considering and analysing the continued development of RWWA’s proposed Win Only Conditioned System on a National Scale.


Subsequently, HRA have developed a Ratings Based Handicapping System (RBHS) which assigns points to a horses lifetime performances according to prizemoney bands and its finishing position.


In addition to the philosophies detailed above, the fundamental objectives of this system are:


1.      Simplicity.  An essential goal for good understanding by all stakeholders but critical for owners, trainers and punters.  Movement in the proposed RBHS (Ratings Based Handicapping System) is up and down one single line without reference to or locking into adjacent and complicated scales as is now the case with R, C and M classifications.


2.      Accuracy.  A horses rating points must truly reflect its overall performance profile with strong emphasis on most recent form.


3.      Uniformity.  Harness benchmark values need to closely relate to the very successful thoroughbred RBHS.  This should assist punters to evaluate the ability of horses and piggy-backing the thoroughbred RHBS will breed much-needed familiarity with harness handicapping.


4.      Equality.  Each and every horse will commence and progress through the system via an incremental allocation of pre-designated rating points, penalties or deductions, with no handicapper discretion applied. 


5.      Real Time.  Goes hand-in-hand with ultimate accuracy as the rating for every horse is automatically subject to change after each start therefore its ability and current form is immediately reflected by its rating points. 


6.      Longevity.  Horses can progressively drop down the ratings in real time until they finds a competitive level, increasing racing population and eliminating horses from ‘hitting their mark’.  In this regard, race programmers should find that a RBHS will increasingly facilitate the use of necessary benchmarks to attract evenly graded fields.


7.      Competitiveness.  Rating horses according to prizemoney bands matches more like for like horses against each other.


8.      Transition by Age.  Within the proposed application of ratings points, all horses will be gifted 60 rating points with which to commence racing – at any age, and discounts applied to age group performances.


9.   Programming.  Ratings Based Programming (RBP) is the natural progression forward from Ratings Based Handicapping. The RBHS would account for the core of most race programs but a lot of races would also be programmed outside the RBHS; classics, futurities, free-for-alls, etc.


10.   Barrier Draws.  It is essential for a RBHS to function effectively within harness racing that most if not all races be programmed with a preferential barrier draw. An attraction of the RBHS is that trainers will have more opportunity to place a horse to advantage according to the barrier draw, either by racing out of class to draw inside barriers or by racing to the upper benchmark against potentially lesser horses but from a challenging draw. 


Testing of this system is progressing well in parallel with the current system, with changes being made regularly to test different outcomes and scenarios.  As this testing continues, with the State handicappers providing regular feedback on its value and performance, more detail will become available for wider industry debate.


RWWA’s proposed Win Only Conditioned System handicaps horses according to their win dollars earned, with this figure replacing a R/C/M assessment and being the guide as to how horses are rated.


Win dollars earned at two and three will be discounted when a horse turns four to give an open age Calculated Win Dollars Only assessment.


That is that, stakes earned when a horse wins will be used in a conditioned racing environment similar to that seen in North America. It is proposed that this system will be circuit based for programming and eligibility purposes.


HRA looks forward to more information being released in respect of RWWA’s proposed system and will be working with RWWA to test the systems side-by-side, as well as considering if it can be implemented on a national level.


As well as testing of these systems, HRA are continuing to analyse handicapping systems from other jurisdictions including the current trial in NSW and HRNZ’s ratings system.


We look forward to keeping the industry updated as the development and evaluation of an alternative handicapping system continues.

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