Meeting News

Benchmark Handicaps | Now all Ratings Based Races

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing is to implement Benchmark Handicap conditions for all Rating 85, Rating 75 and Rating 65 handicap races from 1 August, 2012.

Benchmark races were introduced nationally last August across a limited number of events as one of the key recommendations of the 2011 NZTR Handicapping and Programming Review.

A six monthly Review process, which examined all of the handicapping and race programming changes implemented last November, recommended the expansion of the Benchmark conditions to include all Ratings Based Handicap races. The Handicap Review group said this change would provide the handicappers with the flexibility to continue to re-rate horses for placed performances and still allow those horses the option to compete in the same rating band, albeit with a nominal weight (rating) penalty.

While Benchmark conditions will be attached to the Rating 65 Band from 1 August, the NZTR Board also supported the Handicap Review group’s recommendation that only one win horses rated R66 and above would be eligible to utilize the Benchmark provision in a Benchmark R65 race.

This will ensure that R66+ horses that may have already won 2-3 races will not be able to start in a R65 Benchmark event until their rating had fallen to R65. The provision of the one win condition attached to the new R65 Benchmark band was included to ensure that Maiden winners were not disadvantaged.

A total of 14 written submissions were considered by the Handicap Review group, with the main focus being the issue of horses being re-rated out of their grade for placings.  The New Zealand Trainers Association has welcomed the decision to expand Benchmark opportunities to all ratings based handicaps to address their concerns around horses being taken out of their grade without winning.

The NZTR Board also supported a recommendation to allocate 2 points to all R45 Maiden trials winners for ballot purposes. Currently only an unraced trials winner is given points for ballot purposes to assist them to gain a start. 
The NZTR Board at its July meeting will also consider a change to the Racing policy around the current requirements for Clubs to run a prescribed number of races for apprentice riders only, with a view to regions, rather than Clubs, being responsible for the provision of an agreed number of apprentice rider races annually from next season.

Statistics for the 2011-12 season presented as part of the Handicap Review process confirmed that there have been a total of 5250 individual starters in the nine months to 31 May 2012 – a decrease of just 27 horses (0.50%) on the same period the previous season, when 5277 individual horses had raced. The number of male horses that have started this season is down 63 (2.3%), while the number of fillies and mares that have started is up 36 (1.4%). One of key strategies of the 2011 NZTR Business plan is to encourage increased participation by Fillies and Mares.

Along with programming a regular schedule of midweek racing opportunities restricted to Fillies and Mares, the major change made to the New Zealand handicapping system on 14 November 2011 was to rate all horses as mature males to improve transparency around field selection and provide a 2kg mares allowance. Despite some suggestion that this change would advantage Fillies and Mares, there has only been a marginal change to date in the overall number of males vs. female starters and their winning percentage under the new policy.

The Review group noted that for the period from 14 November 2011 to 13 May 2012 across 1598 races and 16,934 total races starts that males (8,722) currently represented 51.5% of all starters and had won 826.5 (52%) of all races conducted – compared with 9,084 males representing 52.5% of starters and winning 797 (50.8%) of all races for the same period the previous year.

Across the 1598 races for the same period this season,  there have been 8,212 Fillies and mares start, (48.5% of total starters)  that have won 761.5 (48%) of races – compared with 8,220 F&M that (47.5% of starters) that were winning 773 (49.2%) of races for the same November-May period  last year.

The Handicap Review committee noted that there has been an increase the number of Mares starting and winning in both the Open and higher rating grades since November. Historically Open class mares had a 3 point (1.5kg) allowance factored into their rating. When the changes to the Handicap system were made in November to rate all horses as mature males, the rating for all older male horses was reduced by 3 points with the handicappers now rating  males and females on the same basis, with a 2kg sex allowance or the three year old age allowance being provided when weights are declared.

Statistics and more information regarding the Handicap Review will be available when the Review summary is posted on the NZTR website later this week.


Further information:

David Jewell, NZTR Racing and Operations Manager Tel: 04-576-6262

Click on the link below to view the PDF file outlining the 6 monthly Handicap Review Summary...

For further details, click here