Handicapping appeals

BHA handicappers aim to treat every horse fairly and strictly on the merit of its form, using good handicapping practice and always maintaining the highest level of integrity.

We are available to provide connections of the horse, whether this is the trainer, owner or racing manager, with logical and reasonable explanations for our decisions. If you have a query, please contact us directly and we will be happy to assist you.

If, however you have a concern about a BHA handicapping decision that cannot be resolved through direct dialogue with the handicapper, please follow the steps set out below, which detail the formal appeals process and the role of the independent Handicapping Ombudsman.

Please note: If you are reading this as a racehorse owner or racing manager, you can be fully involved in the early stages of the process by undertaking Steps 1 and 2 detailed below.

However, only licensed trainers can formally submit an official appeal (Step 3) on behalf of the horse’s connections. Please consult your trainer regarding further guidance and next steps.

What to do if you are unhappy with a rating (or a refusal to allot a rating)

Step 1: Connections contacts the relevant handicapper

A representative of the horse’s connections should first establish which handicapper rated their horse. You can search for this information using your horse’s form or the individual race results.

Then contact the relevant handicapper via email or phone to discuss your concern(s). The handicapper will then review the horse’s rating, or any non-allocation of a rating, since the horse’s most recent performance.

Step 2: Connections contact the Head of Handicapping

If the concerns are not addressed to their satisfaction, the next step is to approach the BHA’s Head of Handicapping: Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

The Head of Handicapping will review the case from first principles, independent of the handicapper who originally rated the horse.

Step 3: Trainer submits formal appeal

If the concerns have not been addressed to their satisfaction via Steps 1 and 2, it is at this stage that connections can request an independent review. To do this, the trainer must complete a Handicapping Appeal Form.

Only a licensed trainer can submit a formal appeal. If you are reading this as an owner or racing manager, please consult with your trainer.

All handicapping appeals will be considered by the Handicapping Ombudsman. If the ombudsman is unavailable or, for whatever reason including any potential conflict of interest, must excuse themselves from a particular appeal, the Deputy Ombudsman will consider the appeal.

Both the Handicapping Ombudsman and the Deputy Ombudsman are independent of the BHA.

The handicapping week involves all weekly handicapping changes being published at 7am on Tuesday. For the results of the appeal to be included within the current handicapping week, the trainer must have completed and submitted the form by no later than 5pm on Wednesday.

PLEASE NOTE: A charge of £195 plus VAT will apply to each individual appeal. The charge will be debited from the trainer’s racing account and will apply whatever the outcome of the review.  The BHA will meet most of the costs associated with the ombudsman, but this payment is a contribution towards the administrative costs of the review service.

Step 4: Ombudsman contacts connections and the handicapper to understand their positions

The ombudsman will agree a date and time to speak with the horse’s connections, with a view to understanding the reasons for their appeal.

A separate conversation will take place between the ombudsman and handicapper, in which the ombudsman will seek to understand the handicapper’s approach to the matter under review.

It is not anticipated that there will be a need for any further investigation, although should the ombudsman wish to follow up any points with connections of the horse and/or the handicapper, they are permitted to do so.

Neither representative will be asked to provide written evidence as part of the appeal process.

Step 5: Adjudication

The ombudsman will consider the representations made as part of reviewing all aspects of the case.

The BHA will notify connections of the ombudsman’s decision by the following Monday (at the latest).

– If an appeal is successful, the ombudsman will adjust the horse’s rating – or allot that horse an initial rating – according to their adjudication. Any rating revision will be published the following Tuesday morning along with the weekly handicapping reassessments.

– If the appeal is unsuccessful, the handicapper’s initial decision will stand.

Whatever the outcome, connections will receive a summary of the written reasons for the adjudication from the ombudsman within seven days of being informed of the result of the appeal. These reasons will subsequently be published on the BHA website.

The Handicapping Ombudsman

David Cleary


David Cleary is the Handicapping Ombudsman. David first worked for Timeform in 1983, and, among many roles, he was the Editor of the Chasers & Hurdlers Annual for eight years. He continues to work for the organisation as a racecourse reporter.

He also worked for The Sportsman during its brief existence. As well having presented on Racing UK, David is currently the President of the Horserace Writers & Photographers Association.


Ian Heitman


Ian Heitman is the Deputy Ombudsman. Ian works for Racing Ahead and is an experienced form student, attending several race meetings every week. He currently writes primarily about two-year-olds but closely follows both codes.


Handicapping appeal form