BHA to implement alterations to Flat Weight-For-Age Scale

22 Sep 2016 Racing/Fixtures

  • Adjustments to Flat Weight-For-Age Scale to be implemented across Europe from 2017
  • BHA carried out year-long consultation and analysis of over 90,000 runners over six years as integral part of decision-making process

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today moved to outline the importance of the alterations to the Weight-For-Age Scale – which were announced by the European Pattern Committee (EPC) earlier this morning – and to publish key elements of the data which informed the decision.

As part of the research, BHA Head of Handicapping Phil Smith, alongside the BHA’s Racing Department, carried out an extensive data analysis which compared the strike rate for three-year-olds against older horses over a period of six years. It looked at the differences between each year, month and by distance across a sample of over 89,000 runners in handicaps and 5,000 runners in Weight-For-Age races, comparing finishing position, rivals beaten, average winning distance and more.

As a consequence of the data analysis, which also included research by other European nations that corroborated the BHA’s findings, alterations have been made to the Weight-For-Age Scale from the second half of June over 10 furlongs and above. The adjustments are designed to remove a clear advantage which the data showed the existing Scale was conferring on three-year-old horses over middle and longer distances in the second half of the year.

The alterations to the Scale range in size from 1lb at 10, 11 and 12 furlongs to a maximum decrease of 3lb over longer distances where the advantage afforded to three-year-olds was shown to be the most acute.

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 of the data 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 the strike rate of three-year-olds, and their average winning margin. This is because three-year-olds are on average improving at a faster rate than the Weight-For-Age scale currently dictates.

“The alterations made to the Scale should help to create a more level playing field for older horses competing against three-year-olds across Europe. At first the alterations will be seen as a trial and all the data will be kept under review for a number of years, to ensure that the alterations are having the desired, and necessary, effect.”

Ruth Quinn, Director of International Racing and Racing Development for the BHA, said:

“Alongside the process of compiling and analysing extensive and relevant data, we carried out a lengthy consultation with stakeholders. In the light of the stakeholder feedback, achieving a uniform scale throughout Europe has been a key priority for all involved. As such, we are delighted that the EPC and its member countries have formally endorsed the proposal.

“The scale is obviously designed to compensate younger horses for their lack of physical maturity. It was never designed to provide an advantage to one particular age group at the expense of another. There is extensive evidence to indicate that the scale needs amending to more accurately reflect the physical development rate of today’s average racehorse.

“It was the firm belief of the EPC that no horse should be knowingly advantaged by a concept which was originally designed to provide a level playing field. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the environment within which horses compete is as equitable as possible.

“I would like to thank everyone who gave their time to this important project.”

Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation (NTF), said:

“Our Flat Committee was at first sceptical of the argument that a change was needed to the Weight For Age scale, which in their opinion had stood the test of time. All credit to the BHA Racing Department for the depth of evidential data they produced to demonstrate that in the current era, the scale marginally favours three-year-olds at certain times of year over longer distances.

“The NTF endorsed the changes subject to them being applied throughout Europe so we are pleased that the other European Pattern Committee members have come on board.”

Notes to editors:

1. The latest Weight-For-Age Scale can be found here.