New sys­tem will level play­ing field

The Sportsman Weekend - - News - with Neil Evans Follow me on twit­ter @NeilE­vans­mail

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 bet­ 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

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