15th September 2018

At this time of year there are plenty issues that I’d love to blether about but I just can’t find the time. Come winter I’ll have plenty of time and nothing to say.

Last saturday Richard Hughes wrote about his frustration with the handicap system and made some very radical proposals for change but it was only after watching Austrian School finishing second again yesterday, for the fifth time in his last six runs, that I felt compelled to writre about the subject. He’s a lucky, and clearly popular, fellow: Richard Hughes.  If I’d suggested that horses should only rise in the handicap  when winning we’d have had all the lottery-mentality gamblers and the media’s punter-pundits saying that I am naive and anti-betting. C’est la vie.

Austrian School last won a race on 10th May off a rating of 85. The handicapper raised him 8lbs for that half-length win and he was beaten into fourth next time out. Between that run and yesterday’s start, we have run him a further six times (five of them handicaps) without winning and the handicapper has seen fit to raise him another 9lbs. A total of 17lbs rise since his last win despite seven subsequent runs.

Yesterday, on his eighth start since winning, we were running him before the last 2lb rise came into effect (i.e. off 100. Last win off 85) and he was beaten a head into second. What will the handicapper do next, I wonder? He certainly will not drop him from his latest mark of 102 and he may well put him up further on the grounds that he has to raise the winner more than 3lbs.

Richard Hughes was right when he said that radical change is needed but I, as you all know, would go a lot further than he is suggesting. The handicap system is long outdated and is now unfit for purpose. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to come up with a better and fairer system that would demystefy, without dumbing down, our sport.

Staff Area