Many years ago, in what would now be considered the ‘dark ages’, harness racing’s governing body mandated that anyone over the age of 65 would not be allowed to drive in races. This meant stars of their era, such as Derek Jones and Maurice Holmes, were forced into premature retirement, the latter proving how stupid the decision was by driving four winners at his last meeting.
Thankfully the Human Rights Act changed all that, and the limit was dropped, for which I am eternally grateful, as I gained my race driving license (albeit only in Amateur races) after I’d turned 65.
The reason I bring that up is that we currently have another number limit, which relates to the handicapping regulations. For some reason, no horses are allowed to drop below and MR40 or R40 rating, regardless of what their record is. When the rating system was introduced, it was considered quite sensible to have a minimum limit, although I do recall some discussion as to what the limit should be, and if a numerical limit was needed at all. As we now know, the World moves on and it now seems that the 40 bottom number is unsuitable for our current horse population.
What is wrong with having, say an R35 – R40 race as long as the horses are of equal ability, and can provide competitive racing. Even if they raced for a lower stake, as do the Amateur events, surely that could be better than having them being continually beaten up by higher grade, and often younger, horses.
It's always been said that a handicapping system is a living being and should move with the times. Let’s do just that, and try to stop these horses from either leaving our shores or retiring.