Weight allowances for four-year-old and five-year-old chasers have been reduced following a review by the British Horseracing Board.
The measures were discussed by BHB’s Jump Racing Committee and approved last month by its Race Planning Committee. Weight-For-Age allowances are designed to compensate younger horses for their immaturity when taking on their elders. In theory, the allowances should enable younger horses to compete equally. They decrease over time, assuming a fairly regular level of improvement in such horses.
The scale is constantly monitored, and was last amended with effect from October 1999, when allowances for young chasers were also significantly reduced after a period in which they had a disproportionately high success rate.
On average in the 2005/06 season, a horse had around an 11%, or 1 in 9, chance of winning a steeple chase. The strike rate of five-year-old chasers overall last season was at an acceptable level above this, at just under 15%, but five-year-olds do not receive an allowance for the whole year.
The strike rate of four-year-old chasers has increased in recent seasons, particularly in the months of November and December, and in the last quarter of 2006 stood at almost double the strike rate of older horses. However, it is notable that the overall number of four-year-old chasers has also shown a marked increase in recent seasons.
The allowances – over two, two-and-a-half and three miles – begin in May for four-year-olds and will now reduce by 1lb every two weeks from 1st July onwards, effectively decreasing at twice the rate of the existing scale.
The Weight-For-Age Scale in Hurdle races has been left untouched.
BHB Head of Handicapping Phil Smith said: “The Weight-For-Age scales are reviewed annually and statistics are compiled on the success rates of all age groups. It is natural that the win percentages of four-year-old and five-year-old chasers who receive an allowance from older horses is higher than that of older horses, as such horses are generally on the upgrade, but their strike rate has risen over the last few years to a level which had become unacceptable.
“One obvious effect is that in future five-year-old chasers will not receive a Weight-For-Age allowance in the Arkle.”