BHA – Building a Brighter Future for our Sport, our Horses and our People?

BHA – Building a Brighter Future for our Sport, our Horses and our People?  In the days when the Jockey Club still governed and regulated horse racing in Britain, John Francome once referred to stewards as ‘Cabbage Patch Dolls’. The former champion jockey was, of course, likening the voluntary referees to the line of soft-sculptured, potato-faced toys that were ‘adopted’ by small children worldwide in the early Eighties. He may have had a point but, in any case, the Jockey Club ceased to have any responsibility for running the sport over a decade ago, following the merger of the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA), to form the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in July, 2007.

However, the latest ‘refereeing decision’, as it was described in BHA statement, and its supposed justification has, once again, put the stewards – many of whom are still voluntary – at odds with racing professionals. On Sunday, January 26, 2019, stewards at Uttoxeter fined Worcestershire trainer Henry Oliver £140 for waving his arms at his steeplechaser Burrenbridge Hotel, who was mulish at the start of SWUK Steel Decking Handicap Chase. Oliver himself described the fine as ‘petty’, although he added, ‘The same steward had me in for a horse at Bangor recently and told me I was running it over the wrong trip, so I don’t know why the stewards don’t train the horses themselves.’

Another former champion jockey, Sir Anthony McCoy, went a stage further, branding the decision ‘embarrassing rubbish’, while the subsequent assertion by the BHA, later retracted, that horses race ‘of their own free will’, left reigning champion trainer Nicky Henderson ‘in despair’. Barbury Castle trainer echoed that sentiment, describing the BHA as ‘becoming a laughing stock’ and expressed his annoyance at ‘being dictated to by people who seem to have no understanding of the horse.’

In light of the recent figures on equine fatalities, which revealed that 202 horses died on British racecourses in 2018, at a rate of 0.22% per runner – the same as recorded in 2014 – Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer at the BHA, has called for a consolidated effort from the racing industry, as a whole, on the safety issue. However, if recent performance is anything to go by, the BHA seems as woefully out of touch with contemporary horse racing as the Jockey Club ever was. What Mr. Dunshea & Co. need, first and foremost, is a mighty public relations effort to restore confidence in their competency and expertise.

Class Will Out: How to Break the Class Barrier

Class Will Out: How to Break the Class Barrier  Bookmakers and the betting public place much importance on the relative class of racehorses and rightly so. Aside from official ratings – which, after all, just reflect the opinion of the British Horseracing Authority handicappers – there is no absolute measure of class. In other words, all horse racing form is relative to the class of the race in which it is achieved and, by carefully monitoring changes in class, up and down, it’s possible to determine which horses represent good value and which don’t.

 

In Britain, Flat races are classified by a simple 1-7 numbering system. Class 1 races are further subdivided in Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 races, collectively known as Pattern races, and Listed races. Classes 2 to 7 are defined by the official ratings of the horses that are allowed to compete in them. Class 2 races are open to horses officially rated 86 to 110, Class 3 races are open to horses officially rated 76 to 95 and so on down the classification to Class 7 races, which are open to horses officially rated 0 to 45. As you can see, there is a degree of overlap between one class and the next so, even using official ratings, assessing class is not altogether straightforward.

 

After a horse has run in three Flat races, or run in two Flat races and won at least one of them, it becomes eligible for an official rating, or handicap mark. An official rating is simply a number, on a scale of 0-140, which reflects, in Imperial pounds, the ability of the horse to which it is allocated. In other words, a horse officially rated 95 would be required to carry 7lb more than a horse officially rated 88 in a handicap race.

 

If a horse wins, or is placed in, a race and the BHA handicapper believes that it has improved on its previous form its official rating will be raised. Conversely, if the handicapper believes that a horse’s official rating no longer reflects its ability its official rating will be lowered. If a horse is already close to the upper limit for a particular class of race, a rise in its official rating may necessitate a rise in class. If, on the other hand, a horse is close to the lower limit for a particular class, a fall in its official rating may mean that it’s eligible for a drop in class.

By watching their charges on the gallops and on the racecourse, racehorse trainers glean information about their ability and, more often than not, are able to place them in races of the appropriate class.

 

However, some trainers are more ambitious than others and there may come a time when they accept that a horse has been too highly tried and drop it in class, sometimes significantly, so that it can compete more effectively. While it’s true that many horse races are won by horses attempting little, or nothing, more than they have achieved in the past, horses dropping significantly in class are easy to spot, by bookmakers and punters alike, and often represent poor value.

 

Conventional wisdom dictates that most trainers place their young horses, even those who may be destined for Pattern races later in their careers, to win a lower class maiden race before stepping up to higher class events. Even Frankel, who went on to win a total of fourteen races, including ten at the very highest level, made his racecourse debut in a maiden race.

 

Horses of potentially higher class may win their maiden races easily, but still be offered at generous odds when they take on tougher assignments, simply because of the disparity in class. One recent example of this type of horse is the Godolphin filly Zibelina, who won a Class 5 maiden race at Newcastle by 10 lengths on her racecourse debut in June 2013 and followed up in a Class 1 Listed race at Ascot, at odds of 14/1, the following month on her very next start.

 

The issue of class is, by its very nature, a tricky one, but there are one or two abiding principles that can, hopefully, make your betting more profitable:

 

Be wary of any horse dropping in class, unless it has demonstrated, by virtue of its recent past performance, that it’s capable of winning in the lower class. If a horse is regressive, even a drop in class may not improve its performance.

 

In handicap races, be wary of any horse stepping up in class if the rise in class is accompanied by a rise in the weights of 14lb or more. Adding weight to any horse, even a highly progressive one, will eventually slow it down.

 

Don’t be afraid to back winners of maidens or handicaps stepping up Class 1 races for the first time, provided they’ve won impressively or demonstrated progressive form in the lower class and aren’t hopelessly outclassed, according to official BHA ratings.

Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post

Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post  Since the demise of the Sporting Life in 1998, the Racing Post newspaper and its website, racingpost.com, have been definitive sources of horse racing information for the British betting public. However, if you’re new to horse racing or unfamiliar with the Racing Post, we thought you might appreciate a brief taster of what to expect when you open its virtual pages.

 

The Racing Post launched an enhanced online offering, known as the Racing Post Members’ Club, available to anyone willing to pay a monthly subscription, in 2009. However, the good news for horse racing fans is that all the essential features – cards, form, statistics, etc – are still available completely free of charge.

 

Obviously, it’s difficult to review every single feature available in an article of this length, so we’ll concentrate on how to read the cards and how to drill down to the information you need, whether its form, jockey, owner or trainer statistics, or anything else.

 

To find the racecard you want, click on “Cards” on the menu at the top of the Racing Post homepage. By default, the cards for the current day’s racing are displayed, meeting by meeting, but if you want to view racecards for the following day, or further into the future, click on “Tomorrow” or one of the other options at the top of the page.

 

For the sake of this example, let’s say we want to view the racecard for Thirsk on Tuesday, September 16 on the evening of Monday, September 16. We click “Cards”, “Tomorrow” and the name of the race, “Follow Us @Thirskraces Handicap” to display the following racecard.

 

Most of the information in the race header is self-explanatory and, in this case, we can see at a glance that this is a Class 4 handicap, exclusively for three-year-olds rated between 0 and 85 by British Horseracing Authority (BHA), and due to be run over a mile on good to soft going.

 

It’s only really when we examine individual horses that some of the letters and numbers on the racecard need further explanation, so let’s have a look at them.

 

Racecard Number: A sequential number that identifies the position of the horse on the racecard. Typically only used when placing a bet with a bookmaker on the racecourse, or a Tote bet.

 

Draw: A number that identifies the position of a horse in the starting stalls. Nowadays, on left-handed and right-handed racecourses, the numbering of the stalls always starts on the inside.

 

Finishing Position: A series of alphanumeric characters indicating the horse’s finishing position in its recent races. The numbers 0 to 9 indicate finishing positions, while you may also see the letters F for “fell”, O for “ran out”, P for “pulled up”, R for “refused”, RR for “refused to race”, S for “slipped up” and U for “unseated rider”. Occasionally, you may also see the letter V for “void”, which means that the result of race in question for declared void for some reason.

 

Horse: Obviously the horse’s name, but also a figure indicating the number of days since it last ran and an abbreviation for any headgear that the horse is set to wear. Abbreviations you may come across include:

 

b for “blinkers”

c for “cheekpieces”

e for “earplugs”

h for “hood”,

t for “tongue tie” and

v for “visor”

 

In all cases, a superscript “1” alongside the abbreviation means that the horse is wearing the headgear for the first time. For example, b1 indicated blinkers first time.

 

Age: The age of the horse, in years. Regardless of their foaling date, all racehorses have their official birthday on January 1.

 

Weight: The weight that the horse is set to carry, regardless of any allowance claimed by an apprentice or conditional jockey, or any overweight.

 

Trainer: The name of the trainer responsible for the horse.

 

RTF%: An abbreviation for “Ran To Form”; the percentage of the horses in the trainer’s care that ran as well as expected, according to their BHA rating, in the last 14 days.

 

Jockey: The name of the jockey due to ride the horse in the race in question. Apprentice or conditional jockeys, who claim an allowance, are indicated by a superscript number, usually a 3, 5 or 7, but sometimes a 10, which represents the number of Imperial pounds they claim.

 

OR: An abbreviation for “Official Rating”; the rating allocated by the BHA that represents, in Imperial pounds, the ability of once horse relative to another. As you can see from the example above, a horse with an OR of 85 is required to concede 2lb to a horse with an OR of 83, and so on, in a handicap.

 

TS: An abbreviation for “Top Speed”; A rating based on the races times recorded by the horse, as calculated by the Racing Post. The figure displayed is the best rating recorded by the horse, adjusted for the weight it is set to carry in the race in question.

 

RPR: An abbreviation for “Racing Post Rating”; A rating based on the previous race record or, in other words, a private handicap rating calculated by the Racing Post, rather than the BHA. The figure displayed is the best rating recorded by the horse, adjusted for the weight it is set to carry in the race in question.

 

Of course, one of the beauties of the Racing Post website is the ability to drill down to the race-by-race record of each horse on the racecard. This, in turn, reveals a whole raft of further information and an explanation of that information will form a later article in this series, ‘How to Understand the Racing Post Part II’.

 

We hope you enjoyed ‘Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post Part I’and we will be back soon with another advanced betting guide. In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts on ‘Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post Part I’in the comments section below. If you missed our previous post in this series, ‘Ten Things You Might Not Know About The Racing Post’, you can read it here.

What this Grand National Winner did Next

What this Grand National Winner did Next  The Grand National is, of course, the most celebrated steeplechase in Britain, if not the world. Despite various safety changes over the years, the Aintree marathon remains the ultimate test for horse and rider, a fact that appears to be reflected by the subsequent performance of Grand National winners, few of whom ever win again. With the 2019 National just around the corner, we’ve had a look at the National heroes of the last decade or so to see how they fared in their later careers, at Aintree and elsewhere.

 

Comply Or Die (2008) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Joint favourite when winning the National and second, off a 15lb higher mark, in 2009, but failed to trouble the judge in ten other starts, including two more Nationals, in 2010 and 2011.

 

Mon Mome (2009) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first 100/1 winner since Foinavon, but fell at the fourth last in 2010 and, after a lengthy absence, was pulled up in 2012. All in all, in eighteen starts following his National win, he was placed just three times.

 

Don’t Push It (2010) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Famously a first National winner for jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner John McManus and third on his return to Aintree the following year, but unplaced on five other starts.

 

Ballabriggs (2011) – Subsequent Wins: 0

A second National winner for owner Trevor Hemmings, after Hedgehunter in 2005, but only sixth in 2012 and failed to complete the course in 2013. Placed just once in six starts following his National win.

 

Neptune Collonges (2012) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Last gasp National winner, under 11st 6lb and, at the age of eleven, was immediately retired.

 

Auroras Encore (2013) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Like Neptune Collonges, already an eleven-year-old when winning the National, at 66/1, but pulled up when attempting to become the first horse to complete the Grand National – Scottish Grand National double two weeks later and raced twice more, without success.

 

Pineau De Re (2014) – Subsequent Wins: 1

Another successful eleven-year-old, but raced on for two more seasons, and did manage to win another race, albeit over hurdles, before retirement beckoned.

 

Many Clouds (2015) – Subsequent Wins: 3

A third but, tragically, ill-fated National winner for Trevor Hemmings. Shouldered 11st 9lb to victory at Aintree and won three more races, but collapsed and died from a pulmonary haemorrhage after winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.

 

Rule The World (2016) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first novice to win the National since 1958, having twice recovered from a cracked pelvis to do so. Ran just once more, without success, before being retired.

 

One For Arthur (2017) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first Scottish-trained winner of the Grand National since Rubstic in 1979. Missed the 2017/18 season with a tendon injury, but returned to training in 2018/19; unseated rider on both his first two starts, which does not augur well for his long-term aim, which is, once again, the Grand National.

 

Tiger Roll (2018) – Subsequent Wins: 0

An second National winner for trainer Gordon Elliot, after Silver Birch, despite having previously been described by his owner, Michael O’Leary, as ‘a little rat of a thing.’ Still only a nine-year-old, the Authorized gelding made a promising reappearance on the Cross Country Course at Cheltenham in December, 2018.