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Discussion 05_002_1
18th December, 2005

"Collateral Damage" - the BHB handicapper over-rating the 2yos

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  2. 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 as such...."

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 performed.

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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 handicap runs.
2yos with Decreased Ratings No Change in Rating 2yos with Increased Ratings
Number of 2yos 227 58 117
Percentage of total (402 2yos) 56.5% 14.4% 29.1%
Total change in ratings -1198 points Not Applicable +569 points
Average Change per 2yo 5.28 points per 2yo Not Applicable 4.86 points per 2yo
Table 1: 2yos with more than 1 Nursery race run split by their change in Official Ratings

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.

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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 :- Back to Top of Page

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