Handicappers' Blog

The head handicappers from the British Horseracing Authority cast their eyes back to the best of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas Trials action at Newmarket and Newbury.

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Ten seconds can be a long time in horse racing, writes Matthew Tester

With over a furlong to go in the JLT Greenham Stakes Dream Castle had surged into a clear lead pulling away from the seemingly one-paced Barney Roy and putting the race to bed.  Ten seconds later it all looked very different.

Barney Roy, over an inadequate trip and with so little experience from his Haydock hands and heels win, took time to pick up.  Getting into full flight he mowed down his rival who was the only one to finish within six lengths of Barney Roy. 

Dream Castle was maintaining his superiority over the rest.  It really was all about the Barney Roy stride.

His rating is now 115.  There is every reason to hope that he will rate higher next time.  He will be more experienced.  He will be better suited by a mile than the 7f.  He was not asked to dig deep in a driving finish. 

The undulations of Newmarket might not suit him so well.  I suspect that The Curragh will be more to his liking.  But he is clearly yet another classy Greenham winner and a Group 1 win could well be in his future.


By contrast to the Greenham, the bet365 European Free Handicap does not have a recent record of Guineas winners.  I think that you have to go back to Mystiko in 1991 for the last horse to do the double.

This year’s winner, though, at least has a chance of bucking the trend.  Whitecliffsofdover was the first top-weight to win this century.  He always dominated the race from the front and he had no dangers throughout the final furlong.

His rating moves up from 108 to 114.  After five starts that still puts him a pound behind Barney Roy’s figure after two starts.  It is still the best performance in winning the Free Handicap for many a year and he deserves respect.


The bet365 Craven Stakes run at Newmarket on Thursday is not an easy race to assess with any confidence, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

Traditional handicapping methods do little to solve the riddle.

On paper it looked a strong renewal with Rivet (pre-race 115) already having Group 1 success in the shape of the Racing Post Trophy and War Decree  (113) and Larchmont Lad (110) successful at Group 2 and Group 3 level respectively – plus a couple of hugely promising once-raced maiden winners in Eminent (87) and Benbatl (95).

In the end, it was the Martyn Meade-trained Eminent that took victory by a length and three quarters from Rivet but with the 92-rated Contrapposto beaten just four lengths into fourth. 

With the 85-rated Gulliver being beaten under seven lengths despite finishing last it is a result which could see the winner rated as high as 119 or as low as 100 depending on which view you take.

In an effort to help find a level, I considered a time comparison with the 3yo one mile handicap run later on the card.  This was won by Tricorn (running to 96 off 85) which suggests that Eminent might have run to a speed figure of somewhere around 107/108. 

That strikes me as being a little low given the quality of the field.  It would have him some way shy of the lowest-rated winner in the previous five years - Kool Kompany ran 110 in 2015.

A look at the race averages over the same period suggests the winner is typically around the 113/114 mark, the runner-up is around the 106/107 mark and the third around 104.  Considering this I have eventually gone for Eminent running to 111 (his new published mark), Rivet to 107 (retains his 115 for the time being) and Benbatl to 106 (also gets that as a published mark).

Do not forget that the Craven is only a trial. Things will become a lot clearer (hopefully) when the main event is run a week on Saturday.  These figures are really little more than “holding” marks until the whole 3yo scene starts to shake out as the season progresses.


Rhododendron heads the 1,000 Guineas market although she has not raced since winning the Dubai Fillies Mile last year.  She earned a rating of 116 that day and we hope she can reproduce that in the Guineas, writes Matthew Tester

So what about the girls of Clarehaven Stables?  From there John Gosden sent out Daban to win the Landwades Stud Nell Gwyn and Dabyah to win the Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling last week.

Dabyah was rated 112 last year.  She did not have to run right up to that level to win the trial race.  I have her running to 107.  But the trainer in a TV interview said that Dabyah will have needed the run and that better is to come. 

Daban, by contrast, had been rated only 81 for winning an All Weather maiden by half a length on her only previous start.  She beat a much better field this time and is already up to 108 and with the promise of more to come. 

She raced a little keenly in the early stages.  Expecting a stronger pace in the Guineas and with the scope to come on again, her chance must be very much as good as Dabyah.  The issue, though, is whether either of them will be good enough if Rhododendron reproduces her 116.


Thirsk ran a conditions race on Saturday and it was a contest where handicappers cannot raise the handicap marks of exposed horses, except for the winner. 

The winner in this case was Rene Mathis with a pre-race rating of 100 and he beat the 110-rated Custom Cut by a length and a half.  The handicapper is, of course, allowed to raise the winner and you would think that the trainer would be worried about a hike in the rating. 

You might be surprised to learn that Richard Fahey rang before he made the entry to discuss possible outcomes.  We get calls from trainers for advice just as often as we get calls for complaints.

I was able to reassure him that there would be no knee-jerk reaction since his 7yo horse has a long history of solid performances and there was no way that I was suddenly going to assume that it was a 112 performer.

In the event, and despite beating a 110 horse, I was able to leave the rating for Rene Mathis unchanged.  The only horse that I had mathematically running above its handicap mark was Mount Tahan in third.  I would have left him unchanged anyway for much the same reason. 

Handicappers' Blog
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