Phil Smith to retire as Head of Handicapping

04 Oct 2017

After 22 years of service for the regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA)’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, has today announced that he will retire from the BHA at the end of July 2018, with a view to stepping down from the role as Head of Handicapping at the end of May 2018.

Phil, 68, joined the British Horseracing Board (BHB) in August 1995 as a Flat Handicapper after working as a teacher for 23 years. In early 1999 he was appointed as Senior National Hunt Handicapper and in January 2007 became the BHA’s Head of Handicapping, a position he has held for 10 years since.

During his time at the BHB/BHA Phil has been responsible for a number of significant advancements in handicapping practice. These include the introduction of the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classification in season 1999-2000; providing the data which drove two changes in the jumping weight-for-age scale; and recently achieving European agreement to make an adjustment to the flat weight-for-age scale for the first time in over twenty years.

Phil was also responsible for changes in handicapping practice in the Grand National, introducing ‘compression’ at the top of the weights in order to give higher rated horses a more realistic chance of being competitive over the unique 4 1/2 mile trip. 2018 will be Phil’s 20th Grand National and he has been integral in helping Aintree and the sponsors to raise the profile of the race and improve the quality and safety of the horses that run in it.

Phil’s responsibilities have also extended beyond Britain. He has represented Great Britain at the end of year conference in Hong Kong since 2007 and now Co-Chairs that event. In 2013 he was appointed Co-Chairman of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Executive Committee and for the last three years has been on the jury for the Cartier Awards. He also provides assistance, data and information to the European Pattern Committee and the IFHA and sits on the selection committee for Breeders’ Cup.

Phil has decided to announce his retirement from the organisation well in advance of his leaving date, in order to allow sufficient time for a successor to be found. The role will be advertised very shortly by the BHA.

Phil Smith said:

“I have really enjoyed my time as an official Handicapper. Although I will be moving on from working full time as the Head of Handicapping I hope to continue my International commitments and to stay involved in racing utilising the skills and knowledge I have gained over the last 20 years or so.

“During my time at the BHA I have tried to make the methodology and decision making process of Handicapping interesting, clearer and less complex, both with explanations of our decisions in the media and to trainers and owners. Of course, not everyone has agreed with me all of the time, but that is part and parcel of the job and I can only hope that I have tried to make our methodology as open and understandable as possible.

“For the last ten years I have been supported by a fantastic team and a brilliant deputy in Dominic Gardiner-Hill and I know they will develop and continue to modernise British handicapping.

“Most importantly I am looking forward to the upcoming winter jumps season and despite my stepping down next year it will be business as usual.”

Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer for the BHA, added:

“We would like to warmly congratulate Phil on his retirement and thank him for his loyal and distinguished service to the BHA and British Racing over the past 22 years.

“Phil has been a brilliant leader of our handicapping team, passionately committed to being consistent, fair and even handed with all horses at all levels and, in doing so, making handicaps as competitive as possible. It is inevitable that people will question ratings from time to time and Phil has always been more than willing to take responsibility for and fully explain his assessments.

“His influence extends beyond Britain and he has made a major contribution on the international stage. We’ll also miss his expertise in other areas such as the race programme and race conditions, including, most recently, the changes to the weight-for-age scale.

“I know Phil is looking forward to spending more time on the golf course and I’m sure he’ll also enjoy being able to completely switch off from racing matters on his annual trip to the Tour de France. He has always been an enthusiastic and wholehearted advocate for the sport and I know that we will continue to see him on the racecourse. His contribution will be greatly missed by all at the BHA and he has our very best wishes for the future.

“We will now commence the process to find the next Head of Handicapping who will be responsible for the future leadership, structure and policies around handicapping in Britain.”