Formal complaint lodged as trainers vent dissatisfaction with handicapping
A formal complaint has been laid with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing stemming from ongoing frustrations with handicapping inconsistencies.
The complaint, lodged by South Auckland trainer Leo Molloy, was laid in the wake of the handicapping assessment of Wednesday’s open sprint at Tauranga which has left emerging sprinter Mosse vulnerable to missing a start in this month’s Gr I Telegraph Handicap.
The John Bell-trained Mosse ran second to the Molloy-trained Rough Odds in the 1400m Summer Cup on Wednesday, having controversially missed a start in Tuesday’s Gr I Railway Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie after he had insufficient ratings points to make the field.
Mosse had been the TAB’s $3 fixed-odds favourite for the Railway after winning the Gr III Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie last month, when he received just six points, a ratings penalty that was revealed in Racing Times last week to have been the subject of a previous handicapping complaint for being too lenient.
Rough Odds was penalised three points for his Summer Cup win on Wednesday, while Mosse’s rating didn’t change, handicapping which has rankled with Bell and Molloy, who yesterday confirmed he had lodged the complaint through the New Zealand Trainers’ Association, for which he is on the executive.
Both Rough Odds and Mosse are entered for the Gr I $250,000 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) at Trentham on January 21.
The pair are equal 16th on the current order of entry but are in a precarious position as any lower-rated entries could leapfrog them in the ratings with a win in the coming weeks or they could be usurped by higher-rated late entries, which close on January 15.
Molloy said the complaint was made after considering historical precedents that suggested the penalties for each horse were inappropriate.
‘‘I’m not happy, the owners are deeply unhappy and I know John Bell isn’t happy,’’ Molloy said yesterday.
‘‘We’re in a vulnerable position and that’s wrong. The middle finger is well and truly being extended towards us and I’m not enjoying that when there’s so much at stake with this horse.’’
Molloy noted that Durham Town had gone up 12 ratings points for his win in the Concorde Handicap last season, beating placed horses rated 87 and 85, while Mosse had beaten placed 99-rated sprinters in taking out this season’s race and only gone up six points.
‘‘In the [NZTR] business plan for the year, it talks of accountability and transparency and they are two fundamental principles of weighting and handicapping.
‘‘With the internet we can all see what rating points a horse gets on any given day and compare year on year, whereas in the past we couldn’t do that.’’
Bell was careful with his words but it was obvious he was frustrated with Mosse’s slow progress up the ratings, having now only received six points for his past two runs, despite winning Gr III handicap and finishing second in open company.
‘‘The winner got three [points] and we didn’t get any. It makes the whole thing very discouraging,’’ Bell said.
‘‘To not get even one point for running second in an open sprint seems strange. There’s those horses below him [in the Telegraph Handicap order] that will probably race between now and Trentham that could leap ahead of him.’’
Bell said Mosse had come through the race well and would now head to the Telegraph without another run.
‘‘We got outridden yesterday. We ran the last 600m of the race in 32.85 and the winner ran it in 33.65. He was trained for the 1200m of the Railway, not the 1400m of Tauranga, so for him to run home in that time was colossal,’’ Bell said.
NZTR chief executive Greg Purcell said he had spoken to both Molloy and Bell yesterday and he had asked his handicappers to review the handicapping assessment of the race in the wake of those conversations.
He said he was aware of a growing dissatisfaction with the handicapping system among trainers and he hoped to remedy that with the release next week of a new handicapping guideline which would provide a clearer picture of what rehandicaps connections could expect for winning.
‘‘We’re just working on a comprehensive response [to those issues] and some initiatives that we will be putting out there next week in relation to a range of handicapping matters, which will look to improve both the consistency and the transparency,’’ he said.
Purcell said handicapping was a ‘‘thankless task’’ and handicappers were commonly criticised for giving horses too many ratings points but at this time of year when connections wanted to attract sufficient points to secure a start in feature races, there was an increasing number of trainers voicing their dissent over not getting enough points.
He said the report would provide guidelines for connections to take for the disputes process when they are not satisfied by the response from the handicapper and would also introduce changes to balloting conditions for set-weight and weight-for-age stakes races to take into account stakes earnings from Group and Listed races from the previous 18 months.