RASHAAN - THE HANDICAPPER EXPLAINS
The irony of the furore with regard to Rashaan following the publication of the weights for Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle is that a glance through the other ratings allotted to Irish trained entries suggests that the rating differential is now slight. This is particularly when it comes to conditions races.
The conditions form, Rashaan apart, is represented by Footpad (here 149 and Ireland 147), Thomas Hobson (143 in both countries) and Allblak des Places (142 in both countries). This shows how close together the two handicaps are most of the time.
Most notable rating differences normally involve handicap form. Examples include Mick Jazz (141 here but 134 there), De Name Escapes Me (139 and 134) and Desoto County (136 and 132).
So what of Rashaan? His trainer was very understandably surprised to discover that his 139 hurdler in Ireland was rated 154 in Britain. To the best of my knowledge no one here had been contacted as to the level of his rating. By contrast the Gordon Elliot yard contacted me to get a new mark for Whizzzey Rascal before deciding to run and win under a penalty at Bangor on Monday.
My rating for Rashaan’s run has been on our system since that Down Royal win at the start of November. It has not been manipulated in light of the subsequent successes of the second and third.
When assessing the Down Royal race I took the view that Apple’s Jade had run below form; but that Petit Mouchoir had not. As that horse had been agreed on 150 in the 2015-16 Anglo Irish Classifications, I put Rashaan to 154 for the three and a quarter lengths he had beaten Petit Mouchoir. It was a tricky race to assess – falsely run would be the common term. There was a decent early pace which slackened mid-race and then turned into something of a sprint. It could be argued that Petit Mouchoir was a little unlucky.
So, has anything happened subsequently to make me believe that the rise for Rashaan was an overreaction? Apple’s Jade looked an unlucky loser in the Fighting Fifth (a race in which Petit Mouchoir was going well when coming down three out). She then won the Grade One Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace over an extra half mile in early December. Petit Mouchoir followed up his Newcastle fall by running away with the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas beating Nichols Canyon by further than Annie Power had at Cheltenham last March.
In our daily conversations we often tell trainers that we much prefer to handicap horses on what they have beaten rather than what has beaten them. Whilst I re-handicapped Rashaan on what he had beaten, My Manekineko was rated to finish last in this race and did so. He appeared to run very well. The mathematics of the race suggest he has run in the mid 140’s in finishing last in a falsely run race. But he finished behind the horses he should have finished behind and therefore his mark here remained unchanged.
He is now rated eleven pounds higher than the 143 agreed in last season’s Classifications.
In my opinion a more contentious one cropped up this last weekend. Again there will be differing views as there is no correct answer.
When The New One narrowly beat Clyne at Haydock on Saturday, what should my reaction have been? Clyne finished in front of higher rated rivals L’ami Serge and Cyrus Darius. As a horse who had won his previous four races and was raised three pounds for ‘that race’ in the fog on the last of them, I felt that a five pound rise to 148 was justified which prevents a subsequent run in a 0-145 handicap (he looks Betfair bound in any case). Cyrus Darius has been dropped to 145. This gives his trainer extra options when he views the programme book following the horse’s long absence.