BHA Head of Handicapping Phil Smith blogs about a new initiative to help explain how handicapping works, and address the questions and concerns of the sport’s fans and participants.
“One of the great things about horseracing is the joy of trying to solve the eternal puzzle of exactly how good a horse is. Ultimately that is one of the reasons why we love the sport, it is the basic ethos behind racing, where it all began – trying to work out whose horses are the best.
“It is exactly for this reason that horseracing is such a fine medium for debate, and much of this debate revolves around the job of myself and my team of handicappers. It is our role, in the most basic possible terms, to assess the quality of every horse and allocate a numerical performance rating to every run by every horse in British Racing.
“These handicap ratings are important. At the very top end of the sport they are used to determine who we feel, officially, are the best horses at any one time. However, more fundamentally than that, they directly affect the livelihoods of horsemen as they will determine the weights that horses are due to carry in handicap races.
“It is entirely understandable, then, that preconceptions will exist about handicapping. Something that is so integral to the sport and which has such a tangible effect on its participants is always going to lead to debate, and its complexity is always going to lead to questions. It is for this reason that myself and my handicapping team want to throw our doors open to answering your queries about our work.
“We want you to challenge us by sending your questions in to a dedicated email address: email@example.com, so we can answer them. We’re not looking for queries about individual horses, we simply won’t have time to answer them all, but instead we would like you to raise any preconceptions or concerns you have about our handicapping practices in general. It could be that by examining the relevant data we are able to reassure our industry in the practices we all follow. At the same time the questions raised could flag up trends that we were not aware of and this could have an impact on the way in which we handicap horses.
“After we have gathered a number of questions and had a look at the data around them we will publish a selection of the best ones, and do so on an ongoing basis.
“So, if you have any questions or concerns about handicapping please do send them in to that email address firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll do our best to answer all sensible queries in time, but please be patient as they will often require significant statistical analysis.
“In the future we’re also going to look to find other ways to go about explaining what we do and how we go about doing it, so watch this space on that front.”