BENCHMARK ratings races have arrived in Tasmania on a trial basis with the first of many to be run at the first night meeting of the season in Launceston tomorrow night.
Tasracing will trial the use of benchmark handicapping for selected staying races over the next three months.
A benchmark race is a handicap race based on ratings.
There is no upper or lower limit on eligibility. In simple terms a benchmark race is open to all horses with weights assigned to each entry depending on the benchmark rating of the race.
If the benchmark rating of the race is 78 then every horse that has a rating of 78 will be assigned a set weight of 58kg which is the benchmark weight of the race.
Every horse that is rated a point above or below the benchmark rating will be assigned a half-kilogram more or less weight respectively.
For example, a horse with a rating of 77 would be allotted 57.5kg but a horse with a rating of 81 would be assigned 59.5kg which is a half kilogram for each rating point above or below the benchmark of the race.
Benchmark races were first introduced in South Africa in 1999 and then in Singapore in 2002.
They are also programmed in Dubai and Japan and last year they were introduced in New South Wales where they have been operating successfully for almost a year.
The main point of difference between benchmark races and the current ratings based (RB) races is eligibility.
In a 0‐75 RB race only horses rated 75 and below can enter with a horse rated 75 assigned 58kg by the handicapper but any horse with a rating higher than 75 is ineligible.
In a benchmark 75 race any horse can enter (irrespective of rating). A horse rated 75 will receive 58kg while a horse rated 79 is eligible and will carry 60kg (i.e. an additional 0.5kg for reach point over the benchmark number).
A filly or mare entered in a benchmark race against male horses will receive 2.0kg weight allowance while a sliding scale allowance will apply to three-year-olds racing against older horses depending on that horse’s maturity and race experience.
It is hoped that benchmark races will create more opportunities for industry participants to place their horses by reducing the restrictions on eligibility.
They are likely to have a modest positive impact on field sizes as horses which may have not been catered for in a particular week might source a suitable benchmark race in which they can enter and run with a high weight.
Benchmark races open the top of the weight scale providing bigger spreads in weights, in turn, theoretically delivering more competitive races with additional form lines that can drive wagering.