The Great Northern Steeplechase & Jump handicapping
The Great Northern Steeplechase
The Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle and Steeplechase both have a condition limiting the winners to a re-rating of no more than 3 points. The purpose of this is to encourage the winners of the Pakuranga races to compete in the Great Northerns.
Amanood Lad carried 70kg to win the Wellington Steeplechase and then went on to win the Pakuranga Hunt Steeplechase carrying 71kg. Theoretically, we could assign him the maximum impost of 72kg in the Great Northern Steeplechase. However, the idiosyncratic nature of the Great Northern Steeplechase and historical precedence allows us to take a different approach.
No horse (since 2010) has won the Pakuranga Hunt Steeplechase carrying a weight above the minimum and been given no penalty in the Great Northern Steeplechase. The last horse to win both races with a weight similar to Amanood Lad was Hypnotize in 2010 where he carried 70kg and then 70.5kg. It’s important to note that during this time there was a 63kg minimum so he was 7kg and 7.5kg above the bottom weight.
As well as applying weight, we can reduce the weight of other horses in order to create the all-important weight turnaround. Throughout the years the unplaced horses from Pakuranga to the Northern often drop in weight as a way to minimise the need to increase the winner.
To remain consistent, Amanood Lad needs to receive some sort of weight penalty. We have deemed 0.5kg suitable and will create a 1kg turnaround between Amanood Lad and Wise Men Say by dropping the Pakuranga Steeplechase 2nd placed horse by 0.5kg. Upper Cut, who won the Grand National Steeplechase carrying 69kg, will carry 70.5kg. Mr Mor (previously 66.5kg) will be given 65.5kg.
Assigning the weights for jump races in New Zealand has a lot more flexibility than in flat racing. There isn’t a strict policy to adhere to nor is there a weights template or benchmark system. A minimum weight and, in Prestige and Feature races, a maximum weight is enforced however outside of these there is little to restrict what the handicapper assigns.
A limited season for jump horses, jockeys, and trainers is the reason for the ‘discretion’ given to handicappers. Being able to drop the weight of the top rated but out-of-form horse or apply a slight penalty to the young up-and-comer but low-rated horse makes all the difference.
Without the reliance on ratings, we use a horse’s historical performance, ability at carrying weight and overall career profile to determine what weight to assign in up-coming races. For example, horse A carries 65kg to win the Waikato Hurdles so, therefore, we will look to give that horse around 66.5kg or 67kg (despite the rating) in the K S Browne Hurdle. Whether it’s a 1.5kg or 2kg (or even more) increase depends on the quality of field and strength of the win.