Hawkbill, the three-year-old winner of this year’s Coral Eclipse
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Graham Dench 12:00pM 22 SEP 2016
FLAT racing’s weight for age scale will have its first shake up in more than 25 years when a revised table is introduced next summer by the BHA in conjunction with the European Pattern Committee.
The aim is to ensure a more level playing field when three-year-olds, who have been found to enjoy a disproportionately higher strike rate, meet their elders over distances of ten furlongs and more in the second half of the season.
The changes, which will be the first since 1990, have been made in the interests of fairness and competitiveness and have come about following exhaustive research. They will be implemented across Europe from the second half of June onwards after the BHA presented the EPC with compelling evidence drawn from the last six years.
They will apply across the board, in Group races and other conditions events, as well as in the handicaps which make up so much of our programme. However, the changes are relatively minor – in most cases a reduction by a pound of the allowance received over between ten and 12 furlongs; of 2lb from 13 furlongs to two miles inclusive; and of 3lb over more extreme distances.
Thus in the Coral Eclipse three-year-olds will in future receive 10lb rather than 11lb, and in the King George 11lb rather than 12lb. Over a mile and three-quarters in the Betfred Ebor they will be allowed 10lb instead of 12lb, which will theoretically increase the prospects of a three-year-old making the cut.
More for stayers
However, as the 3lb change over extreme distances is not consistently applied month by month owing to an uneven distribution in the old scale, in the Cesarewitch the allowance has changed by just 2lb and in future will be 10lb instead of 12lb, a difference again that should still have the knock-on effect of increasing the number of three-year-olds running.
Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping for the BHA, said: “When we started the process of reviewing the weight for age data well over a year ago I suspected that the statistics might show a bias towards three-year-olds over longer distances in the second half of the season. The data has borne that out.
“The key findings were that three-year-olds have a higher strike rate than older horses, which is particularly noticeable from July onwards, and that as distance increases, so does their strike rate and average winning margin. This is because three-year-olds are on average improving at a faster rate than the current scale currently dictates.
“The alterations made should help to create a more level playing field for older horses competing against three-year-olds across Europe.”