New system will level playing field
IN another tonic for owners and trainers, Racing NSW is set to deliver a revamped ratings system that will keep both progressive and struggling horses in their right grade for much longer, and increase field sizes across the board.
The move will be the first big sweetener for industry in 2017, and along with the recent decision to increase weight spread to 8kg with a 53kg minimum, should lead increased turnover and more depth in field sizes.
Reducing the rating for unplaced or poorly-performed gallopers will provide much-needed incentive for owners at the lower end of the scale, while lifting the benchmark ratings effectively gives a horse and connections greater opportunity to gain more prizemoney in winnable grades before it reaches a level generally considered too tough.
No doubt, the move is aimed squarely at returns on race-day investment and answering the lingering criticism over poor field sizes, the one area NSW has struggled to keep up with Victoria.
Racing also all but confirmed a “secondary benchmark” rating for country horses that come to town, something that will also encourage non-metro trainers to bring their horses to Sydney, especially for those travelling long distances.
Rank-and-file racegoers will welcome this move with open arms.
It’s long been a gripe across Sydney that too many races are dominated by top stables, especially the all-conquering Chris Waller yard in middle and staying events.
But the recent weights change and upcoming ratings shake-up is a serious attempt to cut into this dominance, albeit a very slow burner such is the established force of the leading stables.
In fact, it became an immediate necessity once Racing NSW made it clear it would never limit any stable to the amount of runners it can have in any one race.
Not surprisingly, Racing Victoria made it clear it would not be adopting NSW’s widened weights spread, claiming field competitiveness was not a problem, and while that’s generally true, the last thing they want to do is follow a state that in an administrative and governing sense has kicked its backside to Sunday in the last year.
But of course, not all those doing steering are happy with the change in the weights scale in NSW, with several jockeys coming out swinging.
Josh Parr – who has been in good touch lately tweeted: “Already three rides I was booked to ride this Saturday have been taken from me due to this new weighting system. It is beyond pathetic”. Group 1winning Victorian-based rider Ben Melham quickly replied: “Couldn’t agree more!”
One astute tweeter then noted that 40 of the last 50 rides for Parr – fourth on current jockeys premiership – were at 57kgs or more.
Parr replied: “I’m glad you have picked this up. These rides at 57kg could drop to 54-55kg by acceptance time. This is what all jocks are upset with.”
Of course, in any decision where a reduced minimum is gospel there’ll be angst at the other end of t he scale, and naturally heavier jockeys will suffer if the weights higher in the final field are forced down because of this new “minimum”.
The argument will then be that some jockeys are now forced to live an even more arduous and disciplined lifestyle to remain competitive at the weights.
Let’s hope all connections remember that when they choose their rider for any race.
BACK on the track, and what a smorgasbord of action is set for the final day 2016 tomorrow, with one of my favourite punting tracks Canterbury returning, the Group 2 Perth Cup at Ascot, and a very good card at Eagle Farm in Brisbane.
Canterbury will be a Good 3/4, with the rail true, and I’m very keen on His Majesty ($4.80 early betting. club) second-up in the Canterbury Classic (1200m) after a strong and somewhat unlucky closing effort in the Listed Razor Sharp.
Any number of dangers in what will be a genuinely run race, including I Am Zelady ($16 into $12) who usually fires fresh and is coming off two good trial wins, back from a one-off unplaced run in Brisbane, Scone galloper Big Money ($21) is also over the odds.
Elsewhere, in the high-class Benchmark 92 Race 6 over 1550m, I’ll be attacking both Redoubtable Heart ($3.10 betting.club) and Hetty Heights ($6.50) who look very well placed under the scale could fight out the finish; while I’m expecting a return to form from the ex-Kiwi Liapari ($5.50) in the Benchmark 76 Race 5 over 1900m.
Josh Parr, pictured aboard Sugar Bay Leonard, has registered his frustration at the new weight system introduced by Racing NSW