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Racing NSW Benchmark Programming & Handicapping

Enhancements to the system from 1 January 2012
The new benchmark programming and handicapping model was introduced in October 2009. An initial review led to some improvements to the system from 1 November 2010. Racing NSW conducted its second comprehensive review of the system in 2011.

After considering the findings of the second review, industry feedback and consultation with trainer representatives, RICG (Racing Industry Consultative Group which includes Jockey, Race Club and Breeder representatives) and NSW Racehorse Owners Association, some enhancements to the system are set for introduction on 1 January 2012:-

For metropolitan racing:-
Provide more opportunities for 2yo and 3yo horses.
• an increased weight allowance for 3yo’s to encourage participation in Open Age Saturday handicap races against older horses, including a lower minimum of 53kg for 3yo’s when older horses have the new (ARB) 54kg minimum (not to apply to Black type races)
• more 2yo Set Weights & Penalties races pre 1st January each year to alleviate the quickly performing 2yo’s carrying high weights in handicaps
• more 2yo distance races in May, Jun and Jul to provide options after the Autumn carnival, and
• the above races will lead into a newly created 2yo & 3yo Set Weights & Penalties race, the Metropolitan final (early proposed name is the Significant Stakes)

For provincial racing:-
Provide more opportunities for horses transitioning to metropolitan level
• continue the hybrid system of Class 1, 2 racing and benchmark racing
• increase the number of Benchmark 70 and 75 races to provide more options for higher level provincial horses

For country racing:-
Provide more opportunities for lightly raced horses
• continue the hybrid system of Class 1, 2, 3 racing and benchmark racing
• increase the number of Class 1 , 2 and 3 races if the regional horse population can support more of these races
• Racing NSW handicappers to format a lower entry point for horses in Maiden Class and also lower into Class 1 after winning maiden
• introduce Class 1 and Maiden combined set weight races originally at 1600m and further to provide a set weight opportunity for a horse to gain its second (or first) win
• when determining ballot order for NSW maidens, equalize earnings for NSW unplaced runs to those interstate by excluding prizemoney less than $350

Provide more information
It was also agreed that more information would be helpful in trainers and others interpreting the benchmark system across all sectors. Racing NSW will publish guidelines explaining the weighting of non-benchmark races especially Open and Quality handicaps, general reasoning as to why horses of any grade are more likely to rise quickly or drop quickly in weight, and publish the scale difference in races against the average for that grade.

This handicappers scale differences will be carried in the Race headings when weights are declared; e.g. from 1 January 2012, the Australian Rules of Racing provide that all handicaps must be released with a 59kg topweight and 54kg minimum. If for example, a win restricted metropolitan race is not as strong as usual and needs to be scaled to reach the 59kg topweight, the heading will say NMW Hcp (Scaled +1kg). This should help Trainers and Owners gauge the strength of the race and understand why their horse has 1 kg more than expected. The same will apply to country and provincial Class races, etc.

Monitoring the outcomes
Each new initiative will be measured for success. For example, if the new 3yo weight allowance on Metropolitan Saturdays provides too much advantage it will be reviewed. Field sizes will also be an important measure against some of the changes above so as not to have a negative impact.

Class racing or Benchmark racing?
A request from Country trainers to eliminate Benchmark races and return to full Class 1 to 6 racing was not supported as statistical data showed benchmark races are providing:
• More choices are available for trainers to place their horses as all classes of horse are eligible for Benchmark races, which are graded according to a horse’s merit
• Results show that each class of horse is competitive in Benchmark races and win close to or equal their participation rate
• Benchmark races have closer finishes than non-Benchmark races
• Benchmark races have higher average turnover per runner
• Benchmark races have betting markets which are generally more open, and less odds-on favourites
Note: a survey of Country trainers is being conducted providing them with the review findings of this topic and seeking comment.

New Minimum weights – Australian Rule change from 1 January 2012
Trainers and owners are reminded of the change in minimum weights to take effect Nationally from 1 January 2012. Responding to an application from the Australian Jockeys Association to raise the minimum weight for jockeys to 54kg in all sectors, the Australian Racing Board has mandated a new weight scale:
• The minimum weight in general handicap flat races increases from 53kg to 54kg (occasionally lower for 2yo and 3yo’s against Open age horses if approved)
• The minimum topweight increases from 58kg to 59kg when weights are released (58kg Group 1’s or 2yo races)
• The minimum topweight at acceptances (final fields) increases to 58kg (up 1kg)

AR 103 effective 1 Jan 2012

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