• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Kingfisher Ultra Derby Bangalore (Gr.1)
  • Desert God wins The Tetrasoft Inc. Bangalore St. Leger (Gr.2)
By Anil Mukhi
Friday 08 Nov 2013
Anil Mukhi

Who would be an official handicapper of horses? It's a thankless job at the best of times, with the person tasked with the assignment having to be simultaneously a mathematician, philosopher and psychologist. Also vital is a deep knowledge of pedigrees and a grasp of how to interpret these with relation to precocity and distance attributes. He or she must know how young horses improve and when attempts are being made to pull wool over his or her eyes!

Finally - at least in India - the handicapper needs to have the mettle to withstand attempts to influence his ratings and to filter out inaccurate ideology, such as arithmetical "penalties". Handicapping is not about penalties! The official description of a "handicap", enshrined in the Rules of Racing, reads as under:

“Handicap” is a race in which the weights to be carried by the horses are adjusted by the Handicapper, for the purpose of equalising their chances of winning.

Notice that it says nothing about penalties, which is an archaic concept that suggests that good horses should somehow be prevented from winning! Putting up a horse too high does not amount to equalising its chance of winning…. Conversely, leaving it too low brings about situations where the horses are simply too good for more exposed opponents, the odds quoted are niggardly, and the race is in effect no contest. See for example the result of Race # 222 at the 2013 Pune Meeting, where Silver Arrow – a Graded Stakes winner – was grossly underrated at 68, started at 20/100 and strolled home by 4 easy lengths.

There is also some notion prevailing that small owners should be assisted by providing more opportunities for less talented performers by dropping them in rating. Such a concept, while laudable in an egalitarian sense, actually damages the breed. As it is there are too many bad horses being produced, with 50% of runners in Western India, for example, being rated below 33 on the scale of 0-130. Providing them with sops only magnifies the problem and diminishes the quest for excellence.

A more serious problem is the highly inaccurate ratings published by all Turf Authorities. So formulaic are current assessments, and so heavily influenced by stewards' diktats (e.g. keep the fourth-placed horse where it is, put up the third horse by x points, the second by y points, etc."), that they fail to render a meaningful image of the merit of a horse.

As the National Horse Racing Authority of South Africa says:

“The aim of rating adjustments is to ‘level the playing field’, a winner must still remain competitive, and the beaten horses must have rating adjustments where necessary to make them more competitive”

The Turf Authorities of India publish an annual document - not widely circulated - of ratings achieved in Pattern Races. This document, copies of which this writer has seen, speak of "Rating at maturity". This would appear to require a leap of faith. How can a handicapper know for sure whether a horse will mature or not, and if so by how much? What I believe is meant by this novel phrase is really: this is the real rating of the horse but I am forced by the system to underrate it. One cannot blame the handicappers for this. It is the stewards who are meddling in a topic that is - or at least should be - the exclusive province of the handicapper.

Here are some recent examples: first, a demonstration of how international handicappers rate horses – after her first run (a maiden), Zarkava was rated 85 by Racing Post, a figure that was raised to 115 after her next victory. Frankel received 95 after his debut win, followed by 115 and then 125, all at the age of 2. In contrast, domestically, after 3 wins Set Alight was adjudged to be at 72, Becket was rated 28 before his first start (more formula at work here!), then 62 and finally 80 at the end of his first season. More recently, Murioi – winner of the most prestigious race of the winter season for his crop, a Gr.1 event, was allotted 70 for his efforts.

These are grave issues, for which the Turf Authorities need to figure out a solution. As an aid to breeders, punters and students of the turf, I have made a modest attempt to tie together the various form lines around the country, as they are in my opinion, for the 2012-13 season. Without much ado, then, I present here the Free Handicap of Indian-bred three-year-olds:


Name Trainer Rating  Colour/Sex Sire Stud
SOUTHERN EMPEROR S Ganapathy 118 b g Placerville[USA] Exhilaration
ALAINDAIR Altamash Ahmed 116 b g Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
JEREMIAH P Shroff 114p gr g Jeremy Sohna
MURIOI S Ganapathy 111 b c Dubawi Hazara
STARRY EYES C D Katrak 110 b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
AMELIA P Shroff 109 dk b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
MARIINSKY P Shroff 109 b f Burden Of Proof[IRE] Kunigal
CHARLATAN S S Attaollahi 108 b c Burden Of Proof[IRE] Kunigal
ACCLAIMED P Shroff 107 b c Burden Of Proof[IRE] Kunigal
DECATHLON L V R Deshmukh 107d dk b/br c Phoenix Tower[USA] Manjri
ACE BUCEPHALUS B V Salvi 106 b c Rebuttal[USA] Hazara
CZAR OF ROMANCE S Dominic 106 b c Mathematician[IRE] Sans Craintes
ISN'T SHE SPECIAL S Padmanabhan  106 b f Ace[IRE] Poona 
TURF STRIKER Mahmood Khan 106 gr g Sedgefield[USA] Jai-Govind
ALBERTINO Irfan Ghatala 105 b g Rebuttal[USA] Hazara
FALCON M Narredu 105 ch g Razeen[USA] Usha
FASTEST FINGER L V R Deshmukh 105 b g Holy Roman Emperor Lumbini
MIRACLE MEMORIES N Darashah 105 b c Rebuttal[USA] Hazara
JERSEY SHORE B Puttanna 104 b c Ikhtyar[USA] Nanoli
SILVER ARROW P Shroff 104 gr c Verglas Kunigal
STRIKING S S Attaollahi 104 dk b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
CIRCLE OF LIFE P Shroff 103p dk b/br f Singspiel Nanoli
DANCING PRANCES Altaf Hussain 103 ch g Ace[IRE] Poonawalla
AGOSTINI J S Dhariwal 102 b c Burden Of Proof[IRE] Kunigal
KEUKENHOF Imtiaz A Sait 102 b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
SCENIC WARRIOR S Ganapathy 102 b g Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
SILVER STREAK D Todywalla 102 gr g Verglas Kunigal
ARGIANO Vijay Singh 101 b g Warrshan[USA] Ruia
SUPREME REGIME S Ganapathy 101 b g Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
STRIKE THE STARS S Ganapathy 100 ch g Haafhd Poona
DANCING PHOENIX D Todywalla 99 dk b g Phoenix Tower[USA] Manjri 
LIGHT OF SUCCESS S Ganapathy 99 b f Acclamation Poona
RACING AHEAD L V R Deshmukh 99 dk b g Shamardal Hazara
SOLITAIRE ROYALE S Dominic 99 b g Royal Gladiator Pratap
ARROGANT APPROACH S S Attaollahi 98 ch g Carnival Dancer[GB] Dashmesh
AUDRICK Vijay Singh 98 b c Razeen[USA] Usha
KALLU MAMA L V R Deshmukh 98 gr g Aussie Rules Lumbini
LUCY DIAMOND K V Srinivas 98 b f Lucifer Sam[USA] Sans Craintes
MAGICAL SPELL L V R Deshmukh 98 b f Phoenix Tower[USA] Manjri
PALM SPRINGS L D'Silva 98d b f Placerville[USA] Poona
ADABELLA Vijay Singh 97 b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
ARTORIUS S Padmanabhan  97 ch g Ace[IRE] Poona
BEAUTY IS TRUTH V Lokanath  97 dk b f Tejano[USA] Kunigal
ARTORIUS S Padmanabhan  96p ch g Ace[IRE] Poona
BOMBARDIER M Narredu 96 ch g Steinbeck[USA] Usha
CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS D M David 96 b c Captain Marvelous Hazara
DYNAMO S S Habbu 96 ch g Bahamian Bounty Nanoli
INDIAN TOUCH K Ganapathy 96 ch f Kheleyf Greenfield
JANIS JAY Imtiaz A Sait 96p ch f Razeen[USA] Usha
PERFECT SOUL N Darashah 96 ch g Rebuttal[USA] Hazara
YAKEEN M Bobby 96 b f Hurricane State[USA] Track Supreme
ADIELLA Vijay Singh 95 b f Multidimensional[IRE] Usha
CELTIC KING C D Katrak 95 b g Noverre[USA] Sohna
NABISCO N Darashah 95 b c Senure[USA] Manjri
REMEMBER ME Imtiaz A Sait 95 b g Ikhtyar[IRE] Nanoli
ARABIAN WARRIOR J S Dhariwal 94 dk b c Brave Act[GB] Kunigal
BAYONET Magan B. Singh 94 dk b c Epicentre[USA] A.B.
KETURAH Z Darashah 94 b f Burden Of Proof[IRE] Kunigal
MINT APPROACH D Todywalla 94 b f Ace[IRE] Exhilaration
ROCK WITH U S Dominic 94 b g Noverre[USA] Sohna
SHAKTIROOP Ms. A Doctor 94 b f Noverre[USA] Sohna
WAY OUT C D Katrak 94p b f Exceed And Excel Usha

Note: d = declining form; p = progressing form

There may be some hidden gems waiting in the wings, but I believe this list encompasses all the future classic winners of 2013-2014 outside a certain racing centre. Perhaps readers should revisit this piece in October 2014 to check out this assertion?

Incidentally, the highest number of wins for runners from this crop have been recorded by a pair of offspring of Always A Rainbow[CAN], namely Highly Regarded (15 wins) and World Of Magic (12 wins), but in the real world of reality, neither is highly regarded enough to make the list….

Undoubtedly fans of the Indian turf will have their own views relating to the merit of the different runners. As Mark Twain said “it’s a difference of opinion that makes horse races”.

In making these ratings, I have been guided by the following principles:

  • The original ratings are slightly compressed to make a meaningful handicap
  • Ratings are in half-kilos. Thus a runner rated, say 106, would carry 53 kg. in a theoretical match with its contemporaries. The scale is 59 kg. (118) down to 47 kg. (94)
  • The last known trainer’s names are listed – some may have since relocated
  • Horses are not machines, they have off days.
  • However, a superior horse will more often than not dig deep and fight off opponents even if feeling below par.
  • Sometimes horses face traffic troubles, unsuitable surfaces, travel fatigue, being in season, etc. which means the level of merit they display superficially in a race may be lower than they are capable of.
  • Some owners make impossible demands on their trainers, who are forced to campaign their runners sub-optimally. Truly how often is the dictum "keep your horses in the worst company you can find, and yourself in the best" forgotten!
  • Some trainers, not familiar with a steady flow of classic horses in their barns, get over-excited by the rare superior runner that lands up and proceed to actually diminish its ability by overworking it or over-racing it or running it over incorrect trips.
  • Occasionally, horses are not raced on merits. Such performances need to be "thrown out".