RACE programming was once again thrown into the spotlight this week when a paltry four runners went to post for the $1.1 million Happy Valley Vase. The conditions event, run over a mile at the city track, is restricted to three-year-old griffins from the past two seasons which is one reason why only four made it to the start. There would have been six had Peony and Amazing Win not been withdrawn on veterinary grounds. But who cares? Four or six, what's the difference? The point is, there is an overwhelming case for this race and the Kukri Trophy, which only attracted six runners despite a $1.35 million purse, to be opened up to two-year-olds on a weight-for-age basis. Indeed, this aspect of race planning is part of a general theme in that one very welcome and far-sighted Jockey Club initiative has not been exploited to the full by other developments. It is like buying an expensive product and having no back-up service. In the case of the Happy Valley Vase and the Kukri Trophy, the initiative in question is the decision to race two-year-olds. Some of the most exciting horses have been these juveniles, witness Debonair, Hussar and Supreme Monarch. But one of the basic tenets of the sport is that two-year-olds should not be asked to give weight to four and five-year-olds. It came down from racing's Mount Sinai in tablets of stone. Yet our set-up invites these fundamentals to be humped back up the mountain on the back of these two-year-olds. You see, there are very few opportunities for the winning two-year-old griffins which is where the back-up service has failed to help maintain an expensive new product - the two-year-olds. If the two-year-old is a potential star then it is much easier for trainers to persuade their owners that they need to wait until next season before launching into open company. But it can be much harder if the winning two-year-old is just so-so and, anyway, some owners may not fully grasp the intricacies of weight-for-age and demand that their juvenile runs. The least that can be done is to give the two-year-olds a couple more opportunities by opening up the Kukri Trophy and the Happy Valley Vase. It would benefit owners, benefit trainers and jockeys, and benefit the betting public by making for more exciting races. It would also eventually benefit the widnnections and the public were deprived of seeing him run in last season's Kukri because he was a two-year-old. This time round he wasn't right when the Kukri was run and had to miss the race. But as a two-year-old he could have run in a Class Three handicap giving pounds to four and five-year-olds. The situation is insane. It was also known about more than 12 months ago and still nothing has been done. Indeed, this is part of a general theme which needs to be urgently addressed. The Jockey Club deserve enormous praise for the private purchase griffin scheme and the relaxing of purchasing ceilings and purchasing restraints. Combined with their efforts to make the training ranks more competitive by replacing out-going handlers with the world-renonwed Ivan Allan, Neville Begg and Patrick Biancone, they have also made considerable efforts to promote local trainers and local riders as well as bringing in the best overseas jockeys. So we have a tremendous growth in the quality of both horse and human flesh er community as it would increase betting turnover. Nor is there any downside to this idea. And the response that the two-year-olds can run in the Kukri or the Happy Valley Vase next season is woefully inadequate. Just look at the case of Debonair. His coagainst a background of booming betting turnover and overall economic buoyancy within the region. In short, the Jockey Club have more than seized the day, they have helped to shape it. But at the same time the sport is functioning within an ill-fitting race programming jacket that was tailored to meet the needs of a more lilliputian era of some 20 or 30 years ago. Racing has become gargantuan since then. The jacket is bursting at the seams and needs to be cast aside before it stunts the growth of the body that writhes within. The whole system needs to be rethought to allow the private purchase griffin initiative and the relaxing of purchasing ceilings to flower. One constant complaint from trainers, and rightly so, is that the good young horses don't get the opportunity to develop fully because all too soon they are being asked to hump 140 pounds at the top of Class Two. Begkeep asking them to hump big weights, he is worth listening to. It is a point that Biancone has also stressed and it comes down to a Class system versus a ratings-driven programme and to a basic contradiction between boosting the quality of the Thoroughbred stock and focusing almost exclusively on handicaps as we worship at the altar of betting turnover. The ratings-driven programme allows for more flexibility and it is already happening with the voluntary demotion and voluntary promotion schemes. But racing needs to go the whole hog and programme races by ratings bands, with a much more commonsense approach to the reserve lists and the weights that the young, emerging horses are asked to carry. Of course, betting turnover has allowed this jurisdiction to become what it has become - the envy of the racing world. But the private purchase griffin scheme and the quality of animal now being bought, both as a griffin and as a raced horse, have, as the Jockey Club itself stresses, taken us beyond the realms of betting turnover. The race-programming answers will not be easy to find but there is a pressing need for a more delicate balance between betting turnover and its concomitant, handicaps, and the full development of the Thoroughbreds now being imported. A switch from Classifications to ratings is one possibility, greater flexibility within the reserve system is another and so, too, would be a slight shift in emphasis between handicaps and non-handicaps.