BRITISH 2YO RACING
Desperate Measures - 'Race Standardisation'
and Rating 2yo Maiden Races
Page Index :
PROBLEMS WITH 2yo RACING RATINGS
AVAILABLE IMPROVEMENTS TO ASSESSING RATINGS
2yo racing, of necessity, involves a high percentage of races involving
horses who are unraced or lightly raced. This presents a problem for the
Official and other handicappers because they depend on form analysis, assessing
interlocking racecourse performances and counting lengths and pounds. The
handicappers have two main rating relationships that they need to address
So, if you are used to using a body of existing form to rate horses how
can you approach 2yo races? The main approach uses some form of 'race standardisation'.
This assumes that races of particular types, at particular courses, will
attract runners of the same standard year in and year out.
'Relative 2yo handicap' = trying to place each 2yo in an individual season
on the correct handicap mark relative to the other 2yos in that season.
'Absolute 2yo handicap' = placing the relative 2yo handicap for the season
on the performance scale for all 2yos that have ever run. This is glorified
'pinning the tail on the donkey' with the Official Handicapper taking the
'relative handicap' concocted for each season and pinning it somewhere
on the 'absolute' scale. The Official Handicapper has to do the first part
of this placement when the Nursery races start in July. Initially the Nurseries
will start without the Official Ratings (OR) being made public, so that
the absolute handicap placement is hidden until some of the handicap racing
has taken place. The second part of the process is allocating the ratings
given to the small number high class runners in each season as part of
the International Ratings after the 2yo turf season close.
This approach is a very blunt tool for assessing individual races and
leads to many races being over-rated. Most races are over-rated, rather
than under-rated, because the 'race standard' makes the assumption that
the race in question will be average or slightly better than normal. Most
individual race performances will be below this average because of inferior
horses, slowly run races, inexperience, etc. but will be rated at the expected
standard. Only rarely will superior runners (of which there are only a
small percentage anyway) exceed the 'standard' with an actual performance.
This over-rating of races leads to a large number of horses with the
wrong relative and absolute ratings and causes a variety of problems for
people interested in accurately assessing 2yo performances. A number of
these problems are highlighted in the next section.
It is not though, all 'bad news', of course. If there are a large number
of 2yos with the wrong relative and absolute ratings then there are plenty
of opportunities to use this information to get an edge in betting on 2yo
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2. PROBLEMS WITH 2yo RACING RATINGS
The issues described in the previous section lead to a variety of problems
for those interested in accurately assessing 2yo performances, whether
for betting or for other interests. The problems include :-
So, there are a wide range of problems with trying to assess and use existing
available ratings. The next section suggests how to use other information
and ratings to improve your knowledge of 2yos performances.
Over-rating horses on debut, then note on each subsequent run that they
performed better on debut. For example, XxxxxFxrm (sic), have been giving
ludicrously high ratings to first time out runners for more than 20 years,
then do not appear to correct the ratings in hindsight. Instead using the
"has not produced the form of his debut" type formula in later runner summaries.
Over-rating slowly run races. During a season you can find many examples
where because the winner has to be rated 80+ by race standardisation the
midfield runners who finish close-up get rated too highly. Examples will
show up where whole fields in maidens end up rated 65+ or 70+ and this
outcome is tremendously unlikely in a real field of mixed ability and experience.
The ratings given make it impossible to do sensible investigations into
how much 2yos improve from their debut to second, and later, runs.
Also, if you want to compare different trainer's methods you will get the
wrong impressions using standard ratings.
The official handicapper's role can seem to be ensuring that no horse gets
in on a low weighting in their relative handicap. The collateral damage
of ludicrously over-rated horses presumably is not their problem as such.
If hundreds of horses get over-rated to ensure a few 'blots' on the handicap
do not occur then the worst that can happen is that trainers will moan
at them - and they must be impervious to that to be able to do the job!
The official handicapper's ratings become a standard that other public
handicapper's tend to work towards, whether right or wrong. For example,
B2yoR has respect for the Racing Post 2yo runners handicapper who is one
of the best at trying to assign ratings based on actual performance rather
than expected standards. Later in the season his ratings will tend to close
up towards the official ratings because they have a privileged position
in racing (because they set the relative handicap) and therefore set the
'expectations'. Some 2yo runner handicappers set out to try to match the
official ratings from the outset.
The use of race standardisation shows up in another prevalent problem,
over-rating performances in Black-Type races. The assumption is that Group
1 to 3 and Listed races ought to attract runners of a certain calibre each
year and so always produce the same level of performance. This leads to
The top rank of horses often over-rated and it is not possible to directly
relate their 2yo rating to how they may compete at in similar races at
3yo. A 2yo 'Group 1 winner' actually represents a wide variety of abilities
over different seasons. They are not all rateable between 118-123 and rank
everything else downwards from there (this is pinning the relative handicap
in the wrong place on the absolute handicap on many occasions).
Horses consistently gain their highest rating(s) in a season when they
run in Black-Type races. In many cases the 'improved' form is not
backed up by an improved time rating. Look through any form listing
of a 2yos performances and you will have no difficulty finding this
pattern. In short, the ratings are wrong and those horses did not suddenly
improve but are being given inflated ratings because of the race they ran
in. Many handicappers use some form of symbol to note 'suspect form, be
wary of this rating' when a runner seems to have improved notably in a
major race. It is as if they know that the rating they have given to the
race is wrong but would prefer a bodge to actually giving the race a realistic,
true value. This habit is perpetuated by pundits who use phrases such as
"appeared to show improved form when 5th in Listed race last time, ought
to win this maiden comfortably on that". After the horse has finished 3rd
in the maiden as would be expected by his overall level of form they will
then say "disappointing, did not show his form..." when the horse has shown
the same level of form in both the Listed race and the subsequent maiden.
The problem is with the perception of what performance is required to win
many black-type 2yo races.
The ratings muddy the waters when trying to assess whether the racing ability
of the 2yo population is changing over a period. If the underlying assumption
is that you place the top horses in each season at ratings you think a
winner of Group races should have, then you will obscure any real, overall
changes of the ability of the population of 2yos.
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3. AVAILABLE IMPROVEMENTS TO
Experience gained as B2yoR has worked with different publicly available
2yo ratings has led to the view that different approaches were needed to
analyse 2yo races and performances. The use of two other information sources
are suggested as the key to analysing 2yo races :
There are problems with producing time figures which are outside the scope
of this short article but a good set of timefigures are of far more use
with 2yo races than plain form ratings. One problem with time figures is
that they will under-rate some 2yo races which are slowly run. This problem
is lessened in many 2yo races because they are run over sprint distances,
often on straight tracks and often with a solid pace.
Time figures, i.e. using ratings based on the times of the races, as adjusted
for the prevailing conditions;
Paddock Review, the use of ratings of fields of 2yos as physical specimens
with descriptions of the expected aptitudes of those horses.
However the use of the second information source (Paddock Review) in
combination with time figures can reduce even further any problem with
the use of time figures underrating 2yos. Paddock Review information, where
it is available, tends not to be that detailed. This issue is covered at
greater length in the section of this site dedicated to Paddock
B2yoR produces its own Paddock Review ratings wherever possible and
will make this information available in the 2005
Season section of this site. B2yoR uses paddock review ratings, marker
horses and time figures to produce its own 2yo ratings for use on this
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