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Flat Racing – A Manifesto

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  • #5991
    • Total Posts 3213

    In the years I’ve been reading and contributing on TRF, I’ve seen plenty of moaning about the state of the game and joined in myself on many occasions. With the fixture list getting bigger every year, the number of moderate horses in training increasing, the amount of low grade racing seemingly never ending, prize money declining and concerns about corruption, is there a way forward that looks better than the current mess?

    On this thread, I will post my ideas in a number of areas, broken down into separate posts for each topic – handicapping, race progam, prize money etc.

    All comment welcome.


    • Total Posts 3213


    Currently, no horse is allowed to run in a handicap from a rating lower than 45, even if it’s official mark is lower than 45. In effect, 45 is the base of the system.

    I suggest that the base should be raised to 60, with a minimum entry rating of 70 – i.e. no horse can run off lower than 70 in it’s first try in a handicap.

    This would see the elimination of the current surfeit of handicaps with ratings bands such 46-52, 0-58, 0-60 etc. There would be no handicap staged below 0-70 and above that the current program could be continued.

    By setting the minimum entry point at 70, the temptation to give a horse three quiet runs and get a favourable mark that can be exploited to run up a sequence is significantly reduced.

    It should however be possible to drop from the initial 70 to the base mark of 60 in two runs. After that, connections have the choice of continuing to run from a mark of 60, or of switching to the new program for low grade horses – see below.

    Obviously a change of this nature cannot be applied overnight – the options would be to set a future date, say 1/1/2010, when it comes in, or to move the base mark up in stages each year.

    The fact that the NTF will hate this plan is one of it’s best features!


    • Total Posts 3213

    Race Program.

    The key here is to find a way of providing opportunities for low grade horses. I take the view that the current program for horses rated 70 and up is pretty much OK and that only a few small tweaks are needed.

    I suggest that the low grade program consist entirely of claiming races, but set up to operate very differently from our current claimers. At present, we try to cater for horses over a wide range of valuations in a single race – i.e. top weight priced at £15,000, bottom weight priced at £5,000 – and it doesn’t work.

    I’d like to see claimers at four levels :

    Grade A – top price £40k, minimum price £25k

    Grade B – top price £20k, minimum price £15k

    Grade C – top price £12k, minimum price £8k

    Grade D – top price £6k, minimum price £4k

    Each race would have three prices, so you can enter a Grade A at £40, £32.5k or £25k, with a weight allowance of 4lbs and 8lbs respectively.

    Obviously the top two grades would also, hopefully, be attractive to horses eligible to run in handicaps and that program would be limited to a few races each week. The top grades would also be suitable for staying horses that are more valuable than sprinter/milers with the same handicap rating, simply because of their appeal to jumping trainers.

    So a 55 rated 6F horse might run in Grade C, a 55 rated 12F horse would go for Grade B.

    With the implementation of more claimers, all selling races would be eliminated.

    A typical program at Wolverhampton would be three or four claimers, including at least one maiden claimer, one or two handicaps and an open maiden.

    With far more claimers being staged, the current exorbitant commission paid to racecourses should be scrapped, with at most a modest fixed fee payable by the buyer and no charge to the original owner.

    Hopefully, a growing market in horses in training through claimers, would remove most of the dross from the horses in training sales at Newmarket, that have grown far too big and lengthy, and allow then to concentrate on handling the higher end of the market.

    Both in the claiming races and in handicaps for the better horses, I’d like to see more imaginative use made of conditions – e.g. races open to horses that haven’t won for 6 months or 12 months, races restricted to horses that haven’t won a certain amount of prize money etc.


    • Total Posts 2208


    Pardon my ignorance here (I’m not clear on who regulates what within the industry) but should you not be putting these points forward in the BHA thread or have I got the wrong organisation?

    This sounds similar to the American system – Or have I got that wrong as well?!!!

    I agree with your points on handicapping though. Particularly around the granting of minimum handicap ratings.


    • Total Posts 3213

    Maiden Races

    The existing program of auction races is wide open to abuse – you breed a yearling, send him to a minor sale, glare at everbody else present who dares to look at him, buy him back for 2000 gns, and you’ve qualified to run off bottom weight!

    If your horse isn’t qualified for auction races, you have to run three times in races you know you can’t win and face elimination on a regular basis when trying to get that third run.

    I’d like to see maidens run at three levels – open, intermediate and claiming.

    An open maiden is what we have now at all our better tracks – no restrictions, open to any horse that hasn’t won a race.

    An intermediate maiden would be for horses already unplaced twice in open maidens.

    A claiming maiden is simply a race in one of the four grades discussed above, but restricted to maidens. Slightly off topic, we already have one famous graduate of such a race in the UK – Young Mick began his winning run valued at 5,000 in a Southwell maiden claimer.

    The intermediate category would provide opportunities for the 60 – 75 type horse that can’t win an open maiden – obviously they would only be needed a few months into the season. So 5F intermediate maidens might start in July, 7F ones in October etc.

    Overall, this maiden program should reduce the number of horses being handicapped after three unplaced runs in open maidens.


    ricky lake
    • Total Posts 2358

    Alan , firstly happy Christmas , hope all has gone well in 2007

    I passionately agree with your view of low grade horses and races best suited for them , I have been banging on about it albeit not with your clarity for a good while

    seriously though , I think you should also submit to the HRA , even if they rubbish it as is likely they cannot say they were never advised

    all the best


    • Total Posts 3213

    Prize Money

    Regardless of the total amount available, the current system of setting minimum values for each class of race has proved a failure. The objective was to produce a ‘meritocratic’ system in which higher rated horses would get the greatest reward, thus encouraging owners and trainers to want a higher handicap mark that would enable them to run for more money.

    The problem is that the differentials between the lowest level and middle range were never sufficient to achieve that goal and have been further eroded each year. Also, too many courses, including some quite big ones, have simply taken the minimum value and applied it as a maximum for most of their races.

    I suggest that race by race minimum values be abandoned, replaced by fixed minimums per meeting, or perhaps even per annum, based on the quality of racing at the track. The tracks would then be free to compete for runners and owners and trainers would be offered a choice.

    For example, if I have a horse to enter for a 0-85, I should be able to choose one worth £20k, knowing that will attract a competitive maximum field, or one worth £6k, looking for an easier race with fewer runners.

    For the claiming program discussed above, I see no reason why the prize money for grade D claimers should be much above £1k. I’ve no doubt that some will argue that low prize money equates to corruption, but the difference between that and what’s offered now is not a lot.

    I’d also suggest that at that level, all the available money should go to the winner, with nothing for the placed horses.


    • Total Posts 4491

    Hi Alan

    Some good points, but regarding auction maidens, haven’t they been replaced these days by median auction maidens which are based on the median sales price of the sire rather than individual sales price of each horse nowadays.

    • Total Posts 3213


    Not all auction maidens have gone – and in my view the median auction is a rotten type of race. You can buy a cheap yearling by a decent sire and find yourself excluded because he produced one good looking foal from a decent mare that attracts the big boys to compete at the sales.


    Sean Rua
    • Total Posts 511

    Yes, that’s a wonderful, well- thought-out, plan, imo, AP.

    I know you have the relevant skill, expertise. and experience. to understand and formulate this idea, but, as Ricky has suggested, it is not so certain that the "rulers of racing" will feel able to implement it.

    It’s a bit too sensible for them, perhaps?

    I am an extreme enemy of dross racing, so I welcome your proposals. The current situation IS dire, imo, yet I am pro -AW.
    AW gets plenty of flak because of the current set-up. Your changes would straighten matters quickly.

    Those in charge should listen to you.

    Sean Rua.

    Gareth Flynn
    • Total Posts 583

    Not all auction maidens have gone – and in my view the median auction is a rotten type of race. You can buy a cheap yearling by a decent sire and find yourself excluded because he produced one good looking foal from a decent mare that attracts the big boys to compete at the sales.

    Isn’t the point of using the median, rather than the average, to stop that happening? Does it not work?

    • Total Posts 1789

    Alan, apologies if I have missed your point or don’t understand your reasoning, but one post says that you want to raise the bar for handicaps, making the minimum entry rating 70 and eliminating handicaps ‘with ratings bands such 46-52, 0-58, 0-60 etc’.

    But then your next post says that you want to find more opportunities for low grade horses. Well haven’t you just eliminated this by raising the handicap bar?

    Apologies if I have got it wrong and I would be very grateful if you, or anyone, could explain as I’m slightly confused (it doesn’t take much :lol: )



    • Total Posts 3213


    You can’t eliminate the low grade horses, they will still exist. I’m only suggesting that we don’t stage handicaps for them and use claiming races instead. If that ultimately discourages people from keeping bad horses in training (and it might) then I’m all in favour.

    But with only claimers to run in, getting one down to a mark of 50 to land a touch can’t be done – and we both know that most of the fiddling in handicaps goes on at the bottom of the system.

    So what I’m suggesting is a three tier system – Group and Listed races at the top, handicaps in the middle, claimers at the bottom.


    You’re quite right – my post on median auctions is bollox!


    • Total Posts 1299


    Would be a radical shake up having all horses rated below 70 running in claimers. It would make them much less attractive to own imo – why would one spend thousands training a horse to go and win a 1k to the winner claimer and then potentially lose it?

    Sure, the numbers would go down and that would be a good thing to an extent, but I think you would have to be careful that you didnt end up completely ruining the ownership experience for some of those owners with reasonably talented horses.

    • Total Posts 3213


    Base rating suggested is 60, not 70 – so if you don’t want to risk losing your horse in a claimer, you have the option to keep running off 60 in a 0-70 or 0-75 handicap.

    Radical maybe, but look where years of tinkering have got us – given a blank sheet of paper today, would you honestly dream up 46 – 50 handicaps for three grand? Would selling races seem like an obvious idea?


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