BRITISH 2YO RACING
18th December, 2005
"Collateral Damage" - the BHB handicapper over-rating
Page Index :
2005 SEASON STATS
A previous article
on this site covering 'race standardisation' and general 2yo ratings included
the following point :-
"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
The British Horseracing Board's (BHB) handicapper for 2yo races has
the task of generating the relative (2yos in relation to each other) handicap
anew each season. The first Nursery races (2yo handicaps) start in early
July after there has been a body of racing for the handicapper to work
on. In 2005 the first nursery was the 297th 2yo race of year (out of 1004).
All nurseries require the entrants to have run at least three times
to ensure the handicapper has a reasonable opportunity to assess them.
In earlier season runners are also required to have made a place in the
first four in those three runs. At any time in the season winning a race,
no matter how poor and uncompetitive shortcuts the requirement to have
run 3 times. Winners have to be allowed into handicap races or they would
have hardly any opportunities to run in a race.
When the handicapper is looking to place the 2yos on a handicap mark
what is he trying to achieve? The ideal answer is that he is looking to
give them their correct rating in line with the actual performance
they have produced. They can fail in this ideal for a variety of reasons
but mainly seem to because of:-
In the next section we will look at the 2005 nurseries to see how the handicapper
not rating race performances for their actual value but for an expected
level (race standardisation, etc.)
being human, they react to factors outside the performance, and are particularly
impressed by fancy pedigrees, big sales prices, monied owners, etc., etc.
a general bias towards over-rating horses, and therefore ensuring no-one
'gets away' with anything
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2. 2005 SEASON
In 2005 there were a total of 402 horses that made more than
one run in Nursery races and therefore had a handicap race 'career' for
their Official Rating to show some variations. The following table summarises
how the Official Rating of those 2yos varied between their first and last
||2yos with Decreased Ratings
||No Change in Rating
||2yos with Increased Ratings
|Number of 2yos
|Percentage of total (402 2yos)
|Total change in ratings
Table 1: 2yos with more than 1 Nursery race
run split by their change in Official Ratings
|Average Change per 2yo
||5.28 points per 2yo
||4.86 points per 2yo
The results show a solid bias towards the majority of horses being over-rated
and these 2yos need to have their original Official Rating to be dropped
to be competitive . The bias is almost certainly more pronounced than the
table suggests. With a little thought a number of factors suggest themselves
which pushes the balance further to the 'decreasing side. For example :-
It is worth remembering that this over-rating is within the BHB handicapper's
own Relative Handicap. To make the point, if the handicapper over-rated
every horse by the same amount compared to their actual performance then
the pattern above would not show up. Why? because all of the 2yos would
have a competitive rating compared to each other. The pattern above occurs
because a percentage of 2yos are not over-rated.
The 2yos with increased ratings have all done something positive
to earn their increase and the raises tend to be in 5 point, or greater
chunks. They have been competitive at their starting level. The horses
with decreased ratings tend to have had more runs in Nurseries and are
going down in 1-2 point steps (it is no secret it is easier to go up the
handicap than down). The majority of the horses with decreasing ratings
are still not competitive (finishing unplaced) and need to drop further.
Of the 58 that had no change in rating there were 41 with just two and
11 with three runs in nurseries. Assessing these show that 44 of the 58
had shown unplaced form and would be expected to be dropped in the ratings
with 14 showing winning or placed form likely to lead to an increase. Taking
these into account were get an overall decreased to increased ratio of
around 2:1 (i.e., 67% to 33%).
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3. SOME THOUGHTS
In general the Official Handicapper does a moderate job in assessing
the ability of the majority of 2yos. The model and methods adopted lead
to a majority of 2yos being over-rated when the first enter the handicap.
This is a conscious decision by the handicapper and with a different approach
a different outcome could be produced. In the end it is counter productive
because a percentage of horses still enter the handicap under-rated and
there are 'opportunities' for trainers to get their horse into this group.
In light of this here are a few recommendations to try to get your horse
into the smallish 'under-rated' group :-
There are a number of follow on items related to nurseries but here are
two to ponder :-
Don't run in early season races where placed runs in weak(ish) races
will get rated too highly.
Don't run in maidens at the better courses - Newmarket, Newbury,
Ascot, Goodwood, etc.
Don't run in Conditions and Listed/Group races which are usually
over-rated more than any other races.
Do run in Northern maidens - Redcar, Catterick, Carlisle, Musselburgh,
Do run on the All-Weather (AW) but it is safer to avoid Lingfield.
Running at Southwell & Wolverhampton should be encouraged.
One to be wary off but depending upon the type and ability of the horse
but Do run it a Seller or Claimer if possible. Snobbery is
to the fore in this game and a strong time performance in a competitive
seller will always be rated well behind a poor performance in a Maiden
at a better course.
Do run your horse suited to 8 furlongs in 6f races which they are
not fully competitive in. There ought to be enough variability in these
fields to produce a 'quiet midfield' to finish in. Avoid running
this types of horses in 5f races on firmer going because it will probably
be a little too obvious they are in the wrong race.
Don't have your horses racing prominently in races. If the race
has a slow pace it might end up placed or finish close up. It also may
mean that the other quiet runners never catch up with yours.
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A small number of trainers regularly have more than one representative
in the 'Increasing Rating' group. In no particular order the following
are amongst the regulars - M Prescott, M Channon, R Hannon, N Callaghan
& J Osborne. What are the reasons for this?
Each season the 'Back the topweights in a Nursery' will be aired as a method
for assessing 2yo handicaps. How much value is there in this approach?
What part does the over-rating of the 2yo population in general play?
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