Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Society Ranger – Handicapping Appeal

The Handicapping Appeals Body, Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Anthony Byrne and William Flood, has considered the appeal by the owners of Society Ranger against the rating allotted by the handicapper following victory in the Sunbets.co.uk Handicap Race at Wolverhampton on 30th March 2017.

In considering the matter pursuant to Rule 33, the Appeals Body had regard to the recording of the race, the grounds of appeal, the handicappers’ submission and the response of the owners.

The grounds of appeal are summarised as follows:

The horse won by one and three quarter lengths in a very modest contest. This horse had previously never won a race despite running 22 times. Therefore, the increase was excessive given the nature of the race and the horse and also the winning distance.  It was also excessive on comparison with the current hikes of recent winners of better quality races. 

The handicappers’ position is summarised as follows:

Society Ranger ran in a handicap in Wolverhampton on March 30th for horses rated 0-52 over a distance of 8f & 141yds, and run on the AW track. He had an Official Rating of 43 at the time. However, he ran from 3lbs out of the handicap, running off a handicap rating of 46 (the bottom rating in the race) and his jockey carried 1lb overweight, so in effect he ran from a handicap mark of 47 and he will be required to run off 54 (7lbs not 11lbs higher) in future.  There were 11 runners in the race and Society Ranger won the race by 1.75ls. 

As the race was run in the UK, it was assessed by the BHB handicapping team and the summary of their analysis of the race as sent to the Irish handicappers by Dominic Gardiner Hill (Deputy Head of Handicapping at the BHA, who was responsible for the race in question) was as follows:

  • Society Ranger ran to 54 off 47 – he won going away so the 1.75 length margin between him and The Dukkerer in 2nd was called 5lb.
  • The Dukkerer went up 2lb from 52 to 54.
  • Another Irish-trained horse Appease was a further 2.5 length behind in 3rd (running to 44) and I advise leaving him on his pre-race mark of 47. This was largely because there were a number of horses behind who had recent form and as such couldn’t be moved.
  • These included: Monologue (4th: winner of previous start) who stayed on 56, Rafaaf (5th: placed 3rd three previous starts) who stayed on 49 and Secret Lightning (6th: winner of previous start) who stayed on 52.

The level of Flat ratings in both jurisdictions ( GB and Ireland ) has always been the same and in the vast majority of cases the local Handicapper will defer to the opinion of the Handicapper in whose jurisdiction the horse ran, on the basis that he will know the form of all the horses best and set the appropriate level for the race. The manner of success of a winner is also reviewed as part of the process, and in accordance with usual practice the Irish Handicapping Team (IHT) conducted their own analysis and were in complete agreement with the BHA revision of the race, and specifically with the future differential between the winner and the rest of the field. As such, Society Ranger’s Official Rating was moved from 43 before the race to 54, an increase of 11lbs but in real terms only 7lbs higher than the mark he ended running off at Wolverhampton.

In analysing the race, the IHT were satisfied that a) the level of the ratings of the placed horses at Wolverhampton is correct (both UK-and Irish-trained horses were involved), and b) that the amount allowed for the winning margin of 1.75ls is fair and proportionate with the goal of equalizing the chances of all the horses should they run against each other again. Assuming that the level of the race (placed horses) is correct, the IHT stated that they would generally allow 2lbs per length over this distance and so at a minimum, they would need to allow 3.5lbs to distinguish between the second placed horse and the winner and to equalize their chances should they meet again.

On that basis, the minimum increase in rating would have amounted to +2lbs (the amount the second horse went up) + 3.5lbs (the minimum based on the usual weight allowance at this distance) = 5.5lbs, from the rating of 47 that the horse ran off – giving a total of 52.5.  After watching the race closely and with regard to how the race was run, the race tempo, the quality of the runners and the past form of the runners, the IHT felt that the horse won convincingly and agreed with the BHA decision to add an extra 1.5lbs for ease of victory. This is something that the IHT do for all races and is standard practice among all handicappers worldwide. 

The Appeals Body has set out the response of the IHT in detail to illustrate the precise nature of the calculation employed in fixing the rating after the Wolverhampton race, and to provide general information as to the approach adopted in the handicapping process.  The IHT also set out the profile of Society Ranger, summarised as follows:

Society Ranger had raced 23 times, 19 times for Adrian McGuinness before transferring to Shane Duffy for his last 4 starts, (the first of which was on February 10, 2017).  At 2, he ran 3 times and ended the year with a rating of 50.  At 3, he ran a total of 14 times – 10 runs on turf followed by 4 runs on the AW at Dundalk. His 2 best runs on turf were in non-handicap (claiming maiden) races when he recorded performance ratings of 52 (5th May at Clonmel) and 58 (24th August at Bellewstown). Back on the AW, he ran to a rating of 54 when second (off a mark of 52) at Dundalk on 14th October. He ended the year rated 54.   At the end of 2016, all rating were individually reviewed as part of an annual statistical analysis of the levels of the master ratings file. Following this review, SOCIETY RANGER had his rating dropped 4lbs to 50, which would be an average drop for horses of this calibre and profile.  He then ran 4 more times for Adrian McGuinness, placing no better than 6th and his rating dropped to 46 as a consequence.  On February 10th, he began racing for a new trainer, Shane Duffy. The horse recorded performance ratings of 42, 42, and 37 on the first 3 of these runs at Dundalk after which his official rating dropped to 43, which is that which applied when he ran at Wolverhampton. 

The summary of the IHTs’ response to the grounds of appeal is as follows:

While the IHT agree that the race in question was moderate (a race for horses rated 0-52), the level of ratings for the horses involved are correct based on consultation with their counterparts at the BHA and our examination of the form. 8 of the 11 runners were previous winners while Society Ranger was one of only three in the race that had yet to win. The horses that placed 4th, 5th and 6th had all either won or been placed on their most recent starts. The third horse has a higher rating on AW than he does on turf, acknowledging his superior form on that surface. The lowest class of race in Ireland is for horses rated 45-65, so while moderate in that context, we feel that the ratings of the horses involved are a true reflection of their abilities. 

In assessing the quality of the race, the IHT take into account whether horses have won races previously in addition to the performance ratings that they record. Indeed, what was notable about Society Ranger’s form last year was that his three best performances (running above his then handicap mark in each case) all occurred  in non-handicap races, suggesting in their view that the horse was capable of running to a level higher than his rating.  Based on assessments of over 12,000 performances every year, it is not unusual for horses to have extended runs without winning before turning the corner. A recent example would be Beechmount Whisper, who ran 11 times before winning, and then won 5 races. It is also not unusual for a horse who breaks a long losing sequence to gain confidence from winning and to continue to win thereafter, as Beechmount Whisper has done.

The level of performance rating achieved by Society Ranger last year in non-handicap races strongly suggested that the horse had the ability to win off his then rating. The recording of a first victory may be down to any number of factors, such as a recent change of stable, the re-application of cheek-pieces or a liking for the track.  The view of the IHT, based on his profile, was that he may have been reluctant to put his head in front and weight carried was not the issue stopping him from doing so.

To put the competitive nature of handicaps in context, there were 1,836 individual runners in flat handicaps in Ireland last year and only 582 handicap races so only about a quarter of all horses that ran in handicaps actually won a handicap race. Consequently, a record of 0 wins from 22 is not particularly unusual.  The objective of re-assessing ratings following every race is to ensure that all runners have an equal chance of winning should they meet again.  

Given the analysis of the form as provided by the BHA handicappers, the examination of same by the IHT, and the overall rating of the race, the IHT felt that the second horse (The Dukkerer) deserved to have its rating increased by 2lbs, given that it had beaten the remainder of the field by 2.5ls and more (5lbs over 8.5f). On that basis, the IHT feel that Society Ranger deserved to have its rating increased by this amount plus their allowance of 5lbs for the winning margin of 1.75ls, or a total of 7lbs above the rating he ran off in the race (46 + jockey overweight of 1lb), giving a total of 54. 

This rating reflects what the IHT feel is an appropriate rating level for the quality of horses in the race in question and they feel that this will ensure that Society Ranger meets these rivals on competitive terms next time, but also that his rivals in this race have a realistic chance of reversing the form with him. It is also worth pointing out that the success rate of horses that have won their most recent race is higher than average and so statistically, Society Ranger stands a better than average chance of repeating his success next time out. To put this 7lb increase in context, the average increase in rating for handicap winners in Ireland in 2016 was 6.5lbs. As such, it is line with the average penalty given.

Moreover, the average winning distance in a handicap in 2016 was 1.5ls (1.75ls here) while the average distance between 1st and 4th in a handicap is 4.2 lengths (4.75ls here). In addition, given the pyramid structure of ratings, it is not unusual for penalties in lower grade races to be higher than those at the higher end of the scale (more scope for improvement).  As such, the IHT are satisfied that the current rating of 54 is an accurate and fair reflection of the ability of Society Ranger at this point in time.

The owner’s response is summarised as follows:

Society Ranger is not comparable to Beechmount Whisper but the following were suggested as being relevant recent comparators:  Shamash, Repare Mon, Prove the Point, Split the Atom, Hansian Prince, Torcedor and Workforce.  On the basis of the jockey overweight and running out of the handicap, the penalty should have been 4-6lb, to be added to 4lb for the difference between initial rating and weight actually carried, resulting in a situation that the revised rating was at least 2lb higher than appropriate.  The horse is a tricky individual and in this category, the same handicaps run every day of the week would produce a different result. The rider’s post-race opinion was that "when he got to the leaders he felt the horse was happy to stay with them and not pass them but luckily he got the tune from him after some reminders".

Accordingly, it appears that the actual area of dispute in this case concerns approximately 2lb.  In reality, this amount of weight is probably most closely represented by the 1.5lb added by the handicappers for “ease of victory” in the calculation of the revised rating.  The Appeals Body has considered the recording of the race, the manner of the victory and detailed arguments set out above, and concluded that the precise calculation and justification set out by the handicappers is preferable to the much vaguer suggestion by the owners that appropriate penalty for victory ought to have been “4 to 6 lbs” after the 4lb for overweight and running out of the handicap.  As “ease of victory” appears to be a normal and regularly applied handicapping principle in such cases, the Appeals Body did not see that an effective addition of 7lb instead of “4 to 6lb” represented an error or misjudgement by the handicappers in their assessment of the merits of the performance of Society Ranger.  The comparators referred to do not affect the conclusion in the instant case either way.  The Appeals Body is therefore satisfied that rating applied by the handicappers is fully justified by reference to the overall form of both Society Ranger and the other runners in the Wolverhampton race.

The appeal is therefore dismissed.  However, as the points raised by the owners were substantial enough to merit lengthy discussion, the Appeals Body decided to order the refund of the appeal deposit.  This should not be taken as an indication that deposits will be refunded in future appeals, where the availability of extensive information as to the approach to handicapping published in this decision may also be a relevant consideration.

Society Ranger – Handicapping Appeal

 

The Handicapping Appeals Body, Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Anthony Byrne and William Flood, has considered the appeal by the owners of Society Ranger against the rating allotted by the handicapper following victory in the Sunbets.co.uk Handicap Race at Wolverhampton on 30th March 2017.

 

In considering the matter pursuant to Rule 33, the Appeals Body had regard to the recording of the race, the grounds of appeal, the handicappers’ submission and the response of the owners.

 

The grounds of appeal are summarised as follows:

 

The horse won by one and three quarter lengths in a very modest contest. This horse had previously never won a race despite running 22 times. Therefore, the increase was excessive given the nature of the race and the horse and also the winning distance.  It was also excessive on comparison with the current hikes of recent winners of better quality races.

 

The handicappers’ position is summarised as follows:

 

Society Ranger ran in a handicap in Wolverhampton on March 30th for horses rated 0-52 over a distance of 8f & 141yds, and run on the AW track. He had an Official Rating of 43 at the time. However, he ran from 3lbs out of the handicap, running off a handicap rating of 46 (the bottom rating in the race) and his jockey carried 1lb overweight, so in effect he ran from a handicap mark of 47 and he will be required to run off 54 (7lbs not 11lbs higher) in future.  There were 11 runners in the race and Society Ranger won the race by 1.75ls.

 

As the race was run in the UK, it was assessed by the BHB handicapping team and the summary of their analysis of the race as sent to the Irish handicappers by Dominic Gardiner Hill (Deputy Head of Handicapping at the BHA, who was responsible for the race in question) was as follows:

 

·       Society Ranger ran to 54 off 47 – he won going away so the 1.75 length margin between him and The Dukkerer in 2nd was called 5lb.

 

·       The Dukkerer went up 2lb from 52 to 54.

 

·       Another Irish-trained horse Appease was a further 2.5 length behind in 3rd (running to 44) and I advise leaving him on his pre-race mark of 47. This was largely because there were a number of horses behind who had recent form and as such couldn’t be moved.

 

·       These included: Monologue (4th: winner of previous start) who stayed on 56, Rafaaf (5th: placed 3rd three previous starts) who stayed on 49 and Secret Lightning (6th: winner of previous start) who stayed on 52.

 

The level of Flat ratings in both jurisdictions ( GB and Ireland ) has always been the same and in the vast majority of cases the local Handicapper will defer to the opinion of the Handicapper in whose jurisdiction the horse ran, on the basis that he will know the form of all the horses best and set the appropriate level for the race. The manner of success of a winner is also reviewed as part of the process, and in accordance with usual practice the Irish Handicapping Team (IHT) conducted their own analysis and were in complete agreement with the BHA revision of the race, and specifically with the future differential between the winner and the rest of the field. As such, Society Ranger’s Official Rating was moved from 43 before the race to 54, an increase of 11lbs but in real terms only 7lbs higher than the mark he ended running off at Wolverhampton.

 

In analysing the race, the IHT were satisfied that a) the level of the ratings of the placed horses at Wolverhampton is correct (both UK-and Irish-trained horses were involved), and b) that the amount allowed for the winning margin of 1.75ls is fair and proportionate with the goal of equalizing the chances of all the horses should they run against each other again. Assuming that the level of the race (placed horses) is correct, the IHT stated that they would generally allow 2lbs per length over this distance and so at a minimum, they would need to allow 3.5lbs to distinguish between the second placed horse and the winner and to equalize their chances should they meet again.

 

On that basis, the minimum increase in rating would have amounted to +2lbs (the amount the second horse went up) + 3.5lbs (the minimum based on the usual weight allowance at this distance) = 5.5lbs, from the rating of 47 that the horse ran off – giving a total of 52.5.  After watching the race closely and with regard to how the race was run, the race tempo, the quality of the runners and the past form of the runners, the IHT felt that the horse won convincingly and agreed with the BHA decision to add an extra 1.5lbs for ease of victory. This is something that the IHT do for all races and is standard practice among all handicappers worldwide.

 

The Appeals Body has set out the response of the IHT in detail to illustrate the precise nature of the calculation employed in fixing the rating after the Wolverhampton race, and to provide general information as to the approach adopted in the handicapping process.  The IHT also set out the profile of Society Ranger, summarised as follows:

 

Society Ranger had raced 23 times, 19 times for Adrian McGuinness before transferring to Shane Duffy for his last 4 starts, (the first of which was on February 10, 2017).  At 2, he ran 3 times and ended the year with a rating of 50.  At 3, he ran a total of 14 times – 10 runs on turf followed by 4 runs on the AW at Dundalk. His 2 best runs on turf were in non-handicap (claiming maiden) races when he recorded performance ratings of 52 (5th May at Clonmel) and 58 (24th August at Bellewstown). Back on the AW, he ran to a rating of 54 when second (off a mark of 52) at Dundalk on 14th October. He ended the year rated 54.   At the end of 2016, all rating were individually reviewed as part of an annual statistical analysis of the levels of the master ratings file. Following this review, SOCIETY RANGER had his rating dropped 4lbs to 50, which would be an average drop for horses of this calibre and profile.  He then ran 4 more times for Adrian McGuinness, placing no better than 6th and his rating dropped to 46 as a consequence.  On February 10th, he began racing for a new trainer, Shane Duffy. The horse recorded performance ratings of 42, 42, and 37 on the first 3 of these runs at Dundalk after which his official rating dropped to 43, which is that which applied when he ran at Wolverhampton.

 

The summary of the IHTs’ response to the grounds of appeal is as follows:

 

While the IHT agree that the race in question was moderate (a race for horses rated 0-52), the level of ratings for the horses involved are correct based on consultation with their counterparts at the BHA and our examination of the form. 8 of the 11 runners were previous winners while Society Ranger was one of only three in the race that had yet to win. The horses that placed 4th, 5th and 6th had all either won or been placed on their most recent starts. The third horse has a higher rating on AW than he does on turf, acknowledging his superior form on that surface. The lowest class of race in Ireland is for horses rated 45-65, so while moderate in that context, we feel that the ratings of the horses involved are a true reflection of their abilities.

 

In assessing the quality of the race, the IHT take into account whether horses have won races previously in addition to the performance ratings that they record. Indeed, what was notable about Society Ranger’s form last year was that his three best performances (running above his then handicap mark in each case) all occurred  in non-handicap races, suggesting in their view that the horse was capable of running to a level higher than his rating.  Based on assessments of over 12,000 performances every year, it is not unusual for horses to have extended runs without winning before turning the corner. A recent example would be Beechmount Whisper, who ran 11 times before winning, and then won 5 races. It is also not unusual for a horse who breaks a long losing sequence to gain confidence from winning and to continue to win thereafter, as Beechmount Whisper has done.

 

The level of performance rating achieved by Society Ranger last year in non-handicap races strongly suggested that the horse had the ability to win off his then rating. The recording of a first victory may be down to any number of factors, such as a recent change of stable, the re-application of cheek-pieces or a liking for the track.  The view of the IHT, based on his profile, was that he may have been reluctant to put his head in front and weight carried was not the issue stopping him from doing so.

 

To put the competitive nature of handicaps in context, there were 1,836 individual runners in flat handicaps in Ireland last year and only 582 handicap races so only about a quarter of all horses that ran in handicaps actually won a handicap race. Consequently, a record of 0 wins from 22 is not particularly unusual.  The objective of re-assessing ratings following every race is to ensure that all runners have an equal chance of winning should they meet again. 

 

Given the analysis of the form as provided by the BHA handicappers, the examination of same by the IHT, and the overall rating of the race, the IHT felt that the second horse (The Dukkerer) deserved to have its rating increased by 2lbs, given that it had beaten the remainder of the field by 2.5ls and more (5lbs over 8.5f). On that basis, the IHT feel that Society Ranger deserved to have its rating increased by this amount plus their allowance of 5lbs for the winning margin of 1.75ls, or a total of 7lbs above the rating he ran off in the race (46 + jockey overweight of 1lb), giving a total of 54.

 

This rating reflects what the IHT feel is an appropriate rating level for the quality of horses in the race in question and they feel that this will ensure that Society Ranger meets these rivals on competitive terms next time, but also that his rivals in this race have a realistic chance of reversing the form with him. It is also worth pointing out that the success rate of horses that have won their most recent race is higher than average and so statistically, Society Ranger stands a better than average chance of repeating his success next time out. To put this 7lb increase in context, the average increase in rating for handicap winners in Ireland in 2016 was 6.5lbs. As such, it is line with the average penalty given.

 

Moreover, the average winning distance in a handicap in 2016 was 1.5ls (1.75ls here) while the average distance between 1st and 4th in a handicap is 4.2 lengths (4.75ls here). In addition, given the pyramid structure of ratings, it is not unusual for penalties in lower grade races to be higher than those at the higher end of the scale (more scope for improvement).  As such, the IHT are satisfied that the current rating of 54 is an accurate and fair reflection of the ability of Society Ranger at this point in time.

 

The owner’s response is summarised as follows:

 

Society Ranger is not comparable to Beechmount Whisper but the following were suggested as being relevant recent comparators:  Shamash, Repare Mon, Prove the Point, Split the Atom, Hansian Prince, Torcedor and Workforce.  On the basis of the jockey overweight and running out of the handicap, the penalty should have been 4-6lb, to be added to 4lb for the difference between initial rating and weight actually carried, resulting in a situation that the revised rating was at least 2lb higher than appropriate.  The horse is a tricky individual and in this category, the same handicaps run every day of the week would produce a different result. The rider’s post-race opinion was that "when he got to the leaders he felt the horse was happy to stay with them and not pass them but luckily he got the tune from him after some reminders".

 

Accordingly, it appears that the actual area of dispute in this case concerns approximately 2lb.  In reality, this amount of weight is probably most closely represented by the 1.5lb added by the handicappers for “ease of victory” in the calculation of the revised rating.  The Appeals Body has considered the recording of the race, the manner of the victory and detailed arguments set out above, and concluded that the precise calculation and justification set out by the handicappers is preferable to the much vaguer suggestion by the owners that appropriate penalty for victory ought to have been “4 to 6 lbs” after the 4lb for overweight and running out of the handicap.  As “ease of victory” appears to be a normal and regularly applied handicapping principle in such cases, the Appeals Body did not see that an effective addition of 7lb instead of “4 to 6lb” represented an error or misjudgement by the handicappers in their assessment of the merits of the performance of Society Ranger.  The comparators referred to do not affect the conclusion in the instant case either way.  The Appeals Body is therefore satisfied that rating applied by the handicappers is fully justified by reference to the overall form of both Society Ranger and the other runners in the Wolverhampton race.

 

The appeal is therefore dismissed.  However, as the points raised by the owners were substantial enough to merit lengthy discussion, the Appeals Body decided to order the refund of the appeal deposit.  This should not be taken as an indication that deposits will be refunded in future appeals, where the availability of extensive information as to the approach to handicapping published in this decision may also be a relevant consideration.


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