After months of discussion with HRNZ over recommendations from the Trainers & Drivers Assn., the governing body has announced a number of significant changes to the Handicapping System.
One item that we have been pushing for, for a while now, is that maiden winners should switch directly from their MR rating to the equivalent R mark. This will avoid the often ludicrous situation of a horse that has just won its first race, possibly after a large number of misses, being suddenly rated higher than horses that have won multiple races. In other words, in future maiden wins will be, in effect, penalty free.
The other major alteration to come into effect immediately is the change to not penalising fifth placed horses, which will now drop a point. This will benefit the North Island in particular where, given the often small nature of the fields and one meting a week, a horse can finish fifth of maybe six or seven, be many lengths from the winner, yet not drop a handicapping point. This is an attempt to allow horses to drop back quicker so that they can find their level. In conjunction with this, there will now be a significant difference between the stakes for fourth and the also-rans, the latter payout being reduced to 1.75% of the total stake. This is a good compromise between the connections who wanted the ‘starters’ payments abolished, and those amateur trainers who rely on them to finance their operation.
Changes to be introduced from 1 January 2022 are the ability for a horse to win a penalty free race every season, as opposed to the current one per lifetime, and junior driver concessions relating to the experience and records of the drivers, the latter an attempt to encourage owners and trainers to support the future of our Industry.
Some encouraging moves here, as we know any handicapping system is a living beast and always open to adjustments, so it will be interesting to see what the above changes bring to the table.