Extended-band races only serve to confuse
Proliferation of those annoying, confusing extended-ratings band races has now added an extra muddle for the rank and file punter with the northern hemisphere three-year-olds qualifying for the grade below their rating.
On the weekend, we had Dreams Maker able to contest a Class Four off an official rating of 70, as well as Confucius Fortune running in Class Four off a 64 rating.
We have to wonder aloud once more why those horses with the five-pound weight-for-age allowance are simply not rated on the actual figure off which they compete?
The truth is that Confucius Fortune is a 59-rated horse. He will give a pound away when he races a four-year-old rated 58. Any other view is nonsense.
Now, with the extended-band races, we have the silliness of calling Dreams Maker a 70 horse when he is competing off 65. And all any of this does is confuse the man in the street, especially the newcomer to racing.
One of the beauties of the ratings system has been its simplicity - an attractive quality by comparison with bamboozling class systems in many jurisdictions, which are a real turn-off for the new fan trying to figure out whether this race is easier or harder than the horse's last assignment.
When racing here is eventually presented to bettors overseas on a wider basis, that simplicity would be a winning quality to fast-tracking interest in this far-flung racing product. If it isn't left behind for the sake of some little handicapping nicety. Not so long ago, for example, those arrows in the official racebook form guide that are used to indicate a rise or drop in class, were correct. Now they are all over the place.
A Class Two extended at the top to include horses up to a rating of 105 is now called a Class One, but a Class Four extended up the same way to include horses up to a 65 rating is still called a Class Four. Go figure.
But the official classification is still reflected in those 'information' arrows.
We had a race at Happy Valley recently - and it is far from the only example - where the top weight in a 105-80 Class One was Blue Sky off a 100 rating. In other words, this was actually a Class Two.
We're not concerned with the deep thought processes that no doubt evolved these concepts or with what the racing professionals think - only the way it looks to the customer.
Throwing the weight-for-age allowance in as an extra trick play for newcomers only serves to muddy the waters and keep racing more inaccessible when the job at hand should be to make that part of it simple. There is enough complexity in races without this.
When two soccer teams take the field, the equations are simple and that's why so many younger people would prefer to bet on that than tackle something that seems at times to be Sanskrit translated into Swahili and then into Braille.