HANDICAPPING is not an exact science. However, there are guidelines to assist the handicappers in the calculation of the rating points. But despite this, there is a perception among a number of local trainers that a bias exists.
Former Racehorse Trainers Association (RTA) president Glenn Mendez, who was against the implementation three years ago of handicap races to replace the Claiming/Allowance system, feels he has become a victim of something he opposed. But the system has proven a success for the Arima Race Club (ARC), which has been able to consistently fill framed races.
Mendez is pointed to what he believed was evidence of a bias, while other trainers have spoken out, though they have no course for redress. Mendez highlighted three cases of the perceived bias, the most recent being Canadian importation Kidz Ro, whose points rating stirred conversation among trainers. She won off a rating of 67, beating 70-55 horses on the turf.
The filly campaigned in the USA and at Woodbine, Canada, competing in high-price claiming races. She finished no lower than fourth in four of her ten starts and was given a rating of 67, and not 71 as other horses with less accomplished form than her had received.
One of the ARC’s handicappers, in defence of the rating, stated she was a maiden and was unplaced in her ten starts. The other three horses were also maidens. Mendez ventilated his disgust regarding the explanation, stating: “I really think that the handicappers should be fired, because the real question is why they give Kidz Ro a rating of 67 when you had other maidens that came to the country earning less money than Kidz Ro and were unplaced more times also and still got a rating of 71, which is equivalent to a rating for an unraced horse.”
Mendez pointed out: “Two examples of the injustice are Lenglen, who was given a rating of 71, and Pretty Perky Patti, and the reason given, they could not assess the form and had to start both horses at 71.”
The third horse cited by Mendez is his trainee Soca Train.
He explained: “I was told they have to start my horse Soca Train at 51, because they have to assess her local form first, although she had raced about nine or ten times in Jamaica and had placed only a couple times. But why the same was not applied to Kidz Ro?” Mendez asked. “The word I want to use is not printable, but that clearly points that their ability leaves a lot to be desired,” Mendez said.
He added: “What I am saying, there were three cases regarding imported horses and two were started at a rating of 71, and the Jamaica-bred got a rating of 51. You cannot justify this when Kidz Ro earned more money than them, and was handed a rating of 67. This must be questioned.”
When asked to suggest a solution, Mendez responded: “I do not know what the solution is. From the start I was against two individuals assessing how good my horses are. We are at the mercy of their whims and fancy.”
Regarding appeals against the handicappers applying their ratings, Mendez continued: “There is no recourse. When I asked for a review on Soca Train’s rating, the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority stated that the (review) committee was illegal. I now had to write the same handicappers to review my rating. Micheal Singh (one of the handicappers) told me he wanted to see the local form first before reviewing the horse’s rating. I now ask why this one (Kidz Ro) was different?”
Trainer Douglas Bennett was also critical of the handicappers, pointing out that his charge Salome, who won a maiden race had the same rating as Zorro, who had won three races. He said: “To me that is ridiculous. And how come Headline News, who won the Caribbean Turf Championship carrying top impost of 57 kilos in a race that could be considered a conditional handicap did not earn a promotion?
“The same way when your horse takes one kilo overweight they penalise you, a different yardstick was used for Nominee, who took up three kilos in overweight and was not penalised while Golden Dixieland, who ran third in the same race, was demoted. And the Guidelines that they quote states: Horses that earn money should not be demoted,” Bennett vented.
“Look at Chelsi’s Magic, who won her first race as a five-year-old maiden. She got promoted by five points, and Headline News and Nominee were not promoted. Something has to be done to correct this wrong,” said Bennett.
Trainer Stephen Jardim, who also felt handicapped by the action of the handicappers regarding the rating handed down to Pretty Perky Patti said: “As far as I know the policy is that they have to rate the imported fillies at 71 and colts at 75.
“I queried the rating given to Pretty Perky Patti as she was a four-year-old maiden who raced in US$5,000 claiming races, and she was rated at 71. And that horse Kidz Ro raced in Can$32,000 claiming and up, and earned more money than my horse and was given a rating of 67. The guidelines have not changed. It was a big ‘faux pas’ on their part,” Jardim said.
He ended: “Before the race Mendez, Jose William-Samaroo and I were all discussing how this could be. I am saying they have realised a massive mistake was made compared to mine. Hopefully they will learn as I had to race (her Pretty perky Patti) for eight months to get her down to her class and that is not what handicapping is about. She could have easily broken down.”