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Positive Outcomes From Benchmark Review (6/9/10)

The reintroduction of Class 3 races in Country areas and increased weight concessions for three-year-olds in staying races are some notable enhancements to handicapping and programming to be implemented by Racing NSW from 1 November 2010 following its Review of Benchmark Racing.

RNSW completed its review and after issuing nine proposals, has agreed on a number of enhancements following further consultation with the NSW Trainers Association (NSWTA) and Racing Industry Consultative Group (RICG).

The Board of Racing NSW has extended Class racing in Country NSW to include Class 3 races as well as increasing the programming flexibility of Benchmark races, including by number of wins.

RNSW Chairman, Mr Alan Brown, hailed the changes following dialogue between RNSW and a group of prominent country NSWTA members that included members of the NSW Trainers Association Board.

“Following very fruitful discussions with leading country trainers, the programming mix will be altered to include Class 3 races, while retaining Benchmark racing at mid to high levels. These are positive changes that enhance the opportunities for young, progressive horses while retaining the considerable benefits of Benchmark racing,” Mr Brown stated.

The staying ranks of NSW are also set to be boosted, with a decision to increase by one kilogram the weight concession for three-year-olds contesting races from 1800-metres in distance.

“Encouraging stayers is an important objective of Racing NSW and this increase in the allowance for three-year-olds at distances of 1800-metres and beyond will better align their handicap weight with the weight-for-age scale,” Mr Brown added.

In addition to these changes, races in Country areas will now have a minimum topweight and Benchmark level of 59kg and weights will be spread at acceptance time where horses originally handicapped at the top of the weights do not accept for the race.

RNSW is continuing to consult with the industry regarding ballot conditions and is further pursuing more complex proposals from the Benchmark Review. RNSW and the NSWTA have agreed on continuing consultation to monitor and manage the changes to the Benchmark System and discuss related matters, including issues arising in the Metropolitan, Provincial and Country areas.

NSWTA Chief Executive, Rob Colquhoun, welcomed the developments and particularly the reintroduction of Class 3 races in Country areas: “It was a consistent theme from Country respondents to the NSWTA survey on the Benchmark System that Class racing is preferable for young, progressive horses.

“The reintroduction of Class 3 races and the bolstering of the number of Class 1 and Class 2 races should accordingly be endorsed by NSWTA members in Country areas.”

The outcomes of proposals from the Review of Benchmark Racing are summarised below and will be implemented on 1 November 2010 (allowing for amendments to advanced programming):-.

Minimum Topweights in Handicaps
The minimum topweights at time of nomination be amended or retained as follows;
• Metropolitan/Provincial – no increase from 58kg (Review proposal was 59kg);
• Quality handicaps no increase from 61kg (Review proposal was 62kg); and
• Country racing – increased 1kg to 59kg. The Benchmark level of country Benchmark races is increased by 1kg to 59kg.

Spread of Weights at Acceptance Time
Where horses originally weighted at or above the minimum topweight do not accept for a particular race, the handicap weights for horses below the minimum will be utilised to establish a spread of weights.

Weight Allowances for Three-Year-Olds
The existing three-year-old weight allowance in open age races of 1800m or longer will be increased by 1kg (review proposal was 2000m+).

Consultation with Trainers
RNSW will continue to engage in consultative sessions with NSWTA members (including NSWTA Board Members) from the Metropolitan, Provincial and Country areas.

Amendments to Benchmark Levels
RNSW will discontinue effectively lowering the weights of Benchmark races in cases where no horse in the field is weighted on the minimum.

Publishing Benchmarks of Maiden Horses
The Benchmark figures of maiden horses will be published only after 10 starts (rather than 3 starts) unless a horse nominates for a Benchmark race.

Programming Mix
Programming of Country races will be amended to include:-

• Programming of Class 3 races in addition to Class 1 and Class 2 races;
• Enable programming flexibility to split Benchmark races by number of wins when appropriate (e.g. BM60: 4wins+). The BM 4w+ race is designed for high population meetings where there is room for a C2 1200m and a 4win+1200m on the same program; and
• Establish as a guide the minimum Benchmark for Country TAB races as Benchmark 50, with horses with lower Benchmarks also being able to be placed in Class races.

Restructure Number of Race Meetings
Continue to assess the viability of a restructure of the level of racing activity between the Metropolitan and Country sectors to better balance the supply of racing with demand for starts in these sectors/regions.

Ballot Conditions
The proposals regarding balloting conditions continue to be reviewed in consultation with the NSWTA and RICG.

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