02 Dec 15

When Smad Place ran in the graduation chase at Kempton on 2 November, disappointingly, he was taken on by only four opponents, writes Phil Smith. In the past it has been perceived that running in non-handicaps means you risk harsher treatment from the Handicappers. This is something I hope to prove wrong in the following blog.

Smad Place won the race by eight lengths giving 3lb to Fingal Bay. Smad Place’s rating was left unchanged on 155 and Fingal Bay was dropped by 2lb to 144. My colleague, Mark Olley, wrote on our internal Handicapping system, “Smad Place dictated and powered clear on the run-in as the ratings suggested he should.”

This is the reason we often do not need to do too much to a horse’s rating when it runs in a non-handicap – more often than not they do exactly what we expected them to do.

A year ago Many Clouds went to Carlisle and ran in an intermediate chase. He convincingly beat Eduard and Holywell who were both rated significantly higher than he was at the time. In this instance we had to do something to the ratings as the three of them could re-oppose in a handicap. Many Clouds was put up 7lb yet still managed to win the Hennessy, after which he was put up another 9lb. He then went on to win the Crabbie’s Grand National.

So, this was some coincidence. Both Many Clouds and Smad Place ran in and won a non-handicap in their prep run for Newbury and both still won the Hennessy.

Since I returned to jumping from the Flat at the start of November I have assessed 10 non-handicaps. This is what I have done to the first four to finish:

Race Winner Second Third Fourth
2260 Unchanged -2 Unchanged No fourth
2332 +7 Unchanged -8 -3
2372 Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged No fourth
2399 Unchanged Unchanged -1 No fourth
2481 +12 Unchanged Unchanged No fourth
2553 +2 Unchanged Unchanged No fourth
2642 +5 -4 -2 -3
2660 Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged -3
2717 Unchanged Unchanged Unchanged No fourth
2764 Unchanged +2 -8 -7


Winners – six unchanged and only four raised a total of 26lb at an average rise of 6.5lb.

Seconds – seven unchanged, only one raised by 2lb and two dropped a total of 6lb.

Thirds – six unchanged, none raised and four dropped a total of 19lb at an average drop of 4.75lb.

Fourths – All of the horses that actually completed and finished fourth were dropped a total of 16lb at an average of 4lb.

With these statistics I’d certainly encourage trainers to run in these non-handicaps – you have every chance of picking up prize money and statistically a greater chance of being dropped than going up.

Fingal Bay is a case in point. He earned £3,816 for being second to Smad Place at Kempton and went down 2lb. He has now picked up £10,660 for running fourth in the Hennessy and has dropped another 2lb. Over £14,000 for two runs and his handicap mark has come down from 146 to 142!

Meanwhile what of Smad Place? He is clearly now a Gold Cup contender and his new rating says as much. I have put him up 13lb for his stunning jumping master class. He is now on 168, the same figure that we agreed for Road To Riches’ performance when third in the Gold Cup last March. The trick now for his trainer is to improve him further to be able to perform in the mid to high 170s on the undulations of Cheltenham, as that is the figure that will probably be needed to win the 2016 renewal.