Handicappers' blog

Head handicapper at the British Horseracing Authority, Phil Smith puts forward the reasoning for Arrogate being crowned the 2017 Longines World’s Best Racehorse.

  • Thursday 25 January
  • Blog
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WHY ARROGATE IS THE HIGHEST RATED HORSE IN THE WORLD FOR 2017

I am a little surprised that some people have questioned the place of Arrogate (134) as the highest rated horse in the 2017 Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. (LWBRR). It must be because there is confusion as to how the figures are calculated so I will try to explain.

In December every year around 20 International Handicappers meet in Hong Kong and discuss the end of year rating for every horse in the world who has been nominated by the domestic Handicapper at 115 and above. We debate every horse and this year there are 334 horses around the world who have been allocated a figure of 115+.

The criteria that we use is what is the horse’s highest sustainable performance in the year? The definition of “highest sustainable performance” is the best performance put up by a horse in the year that can be supported and substantiated by the prior or subsequent runs of the winner and/or the placed horses.

Domestically, I believe that form of a race works out around 25% of the time, doesn’t work out about 50% of the time and is mixed about 25% of the time. I suspect it is similar in Pattern Races around the world which we are using to base the rankings. It is therefore much more difficult for a horse to be allocated its final figure for a race earlier in the year than for one late in the year as there have been few if any chances for the form to be disproved.

Clearly Arrogate’s figure is unsustainable if you only look at his subsequent performances on his return to America from Dubai. However, the LWBRR Committee do not work in such a superficial and limited way.

We considered his previous run in the Pegasus which on 131 was only just below his Dubai run. That performance is supported by nearly all of Shaman Ghost’s (2nd) subsequent runs, Neolithic’s (3rd) next run in Dubai and by Keen Ice’s (4th) runs when he returned to USA, as well clearly by Arrogate’s next run in Dubai.

From Dubai the level of the race is supported by all of Gun Runner’s (2nd) races throughout the season and by Mubtahij’s (3rd) next run when he won the Awesome Again Stakes back in America.

Thus, Arrogate’s run in Dubai is strongly supported by the subsequent form of the beaten horses, while he has his win in the Pegasus to bolster his run in Dubai and the form of the beaten horses in the Pegasus is solid.

Of course, what owners, breeders, trainers and racing enthusiasts want from both domestic and International Handicappers is a consistency of approach so that the same methodology is used for all the horses that we considered.

Look therefore at the case of Frontiersman, who was second in the Coronation Cup to Highland Reel and second in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket to Hawkbill. That form was supported and substantiated by both winners subsequently but for whatever reason Frontiersman could not replicate it.

In Hong Kong Frontiersman was allocated 117 even though we have dropped his domestic handicap mark to 114. Of course, there is a huge difference between a BHA handicap mark and a LWBRR figure.

One is an assessment of a horse’s current ability level, the other is a historical reflection of its best annual performance.

Hopefully this explains why Arrogate has been given the title of LWBRR champion for 2017.

Handicappers' blog
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