Handicappers blog: How handicap ratings are allocated

22 Jan 20

Following comment from both written and social media in the last 36 hours, the BHA handicapping team explain a little more around the rating allotted to Marracudja and the guiding principles which they work to when allotting handicap ratings. 

There has been a wide degree of comment in the last day or so regarding the rating of 154 allotted to Marracudja following his seven-and-a-half length third in Saturday’s Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

As has already been reported Marracudja’s mark was due to be revised to 146 following his recent win at Wetherby as the horse that had finished second to him, Hawk High, had subsequently run to a higher rating.

Marracudja’s defeat of Janika rated 165 and Capeland rated 153 left us with the view that Marracudja should as a minimum be rated higher than Capeland should the two meet again on handicap terms. We noted that Racing Post Ratings had him running to 155, however for the reasons already stated we arrived at a rating of 154.

We share the opinion that this was not a flat-out test at the trip, and it is possible that Marracudja was somewhat flattered. However, the counter to that argument is that he was held-up.  If this race did turn into a bit of a sprint then he had the worst starting position when the pace livened up – he was being asked to make ground into a quickening pace so it could be argued that he has actually run extremely well to finish as close as he did.

Balancing all these arguments and turning them into a revised rating was not a simple task, but we remain confident that this represented a career-best effort by Marracudja and given the margin and manner by which he beat Capeland and Janika he should be rated accordingly.

There is of course an independent Appeals process which was brought in last year to allow trainers and owners to challenge revised marks should they wish. Part of the reason behind updating the appeals process was to ensure any handicapping queries could be responded to quickly, with the aim of reaching an outcome within 7 days.  

Turning to more general matters, the subsequent discussion of Marracudja’s rating has given rise to a number of inaccurate assertions regarding how we allot handicap ratings.

There has been a misconception for a number of years, that we have gone to considerable lengths to dispel, that horses are handicapped based on the horses that beat them. Let us take this opportunity to state that this is not how we operate with horses almost always being handicapped based on the horses that they beat rather than the horses that beat them.

There is a detailed guide to handicapping which includes a section on how we decide handicap ratings on the BHA website for anyone that is interested, but we want to make clear that that the process for Saturday’s Clarence House was the same as for every other race, with each horse was treated fairly and strictly on the merits of its form using best handicapping practice.