Why the small fields?

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2 months 2 weeks ago #762884 by Tony Mincione
Tony Mincione created the topic: Why the small fields?
Racing is great for opinions. There are so many variables, that anyone can have an opinion and not get immediately shot down facts.

So here is an opinion: racing is going to take the increasing strain if field size continues to decline. Hers is a fact: as the number of runners in a race declines, so that race starts to struggle to maintain it's profitability as bets like quartets and trifectas lose traction with the betting public.

So why are there so few nominations for some races, and interestingly for important races? The Daily News ended up with 7 runners and so the 4th and 5th finishers got 100k and 50k. Not bad for 2 minutes where you had to just beat a 16/1 and 25/1 shot out of last and 2nd last. Until the NHRA muddied the waters in opposition to transparency, you needn't have worried too much about penalties either.

So watching the Cape Nursery scratchings, 11 nominations from 5 yards cut down to 7 runners for 200k. Not much to bet on, although there have been about 200 2yo runners running for far less so far. The guidelines say that the runner up in a Listed race can only go up 4 points (ok, who knows with these people?).

What's the rational explanation for only 8 or 7 runners for high stakes races?

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2 months 2 weeks ago #762894 by Bob Brogan
Bob Brogan replied the topic: Why the small fields?
More losers mean diluted breeding figures... Was always a conspiracy feeling of mine about the Western Cape small fields

As a non punter i enjoy watching the smaller Gr1 fields (less excuses)

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2 months 2 weeks ago #762906 by Mac
Mac replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
...but there are only two “runners” in football, cricket, etc matches where betting revenue is rocketing.


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2 months 2 weeks ago #762914 by louisg
louisg replied the topic: Why the small fields?
I think that the new approach by NHA re Features will force us to get used to small fields in Features. The fact that if you finish 9 lengths off in a Feature and can still get penalised is a worry.

Yes, you should not race a horse in a field in which the horse is far out at the weights unless you believe that horse to be Feature material.

However, if you are wrong or just enter to have a go , you are in for penalties which are more than likely the shortening of a career or a huge negative on potential earnings. You will take many runs to get back to your proper rating.

In the normal handicap races, it is often the case of programming, that leads to smaller fields. However, it is an impossible task, trying to keep everyone happy, when programming.

Another problem is the fact that we have, over the last few years, done only two things consistently, in terms of Racing Surfaces/Courses -
1)We have sold courses which are fair and less biased in terms of draw.
2)ALL of our replacement surfaces are very draw biased. Of the remaining courses, very few are not severely draw biased, the majority are.

Many Owners and Trainers just refuse to waste their time with bad draws and then they scratch their horses if drawn badly. By scratching, you have less chance of your horse sustaining an injury and the same cost result. The horse is highly unlikely to earn from a bad draw on a draw biased course, so rather scratch...

During the recent NHA roadshow, we have been informed that the whole population will be raised by 10 points on 1st August. Surely this in itself, after many previous annual raising of the ratings of the population, is proof that the MR system has failed?
The best suggestion with regard to the 10 point rise, came from Tony Rivalland, where he suggested a sliding scale, rather than a flat 10 points, across the board. I support that line of thinking. This appears to have been ignored, though.
( Tony Rivalland did mention that he had consulted with yourself, Tony Mincione)

Lastly, I have a track record of running my horses often. Yet, there are horses that this does not suit and they must be raced differently. Often we are under pressure to run by Owners. And yes, there are some really nice horses that would benefit from a break of a few months to mature etc. These are not easy to explain to Owners nowadays. This is understandable, because times are tough. However, yes, there do seem to be yards that race their horses very lightly. This is another cause of the smaller fields.

And the last cause is definitely the cramming in the very low divisions. There are just too few higher rated horses....which is why a properly designed, sliding scale raising of the population, will serve us better...
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2 months 2 weeks ago #762917 by Mac
Mac replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
Yip, Newmarket had the best drainage and the least draw bias in the country.


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2 months 2 weeks ago #762927 by Tony Mincione
Tony Mincione replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
Thanks for the replies especially louisg.

Firstly the ratings. I never agreed with the tampering because the minute you start fiddling is when it's going to cost someone. You cannot interfere without benefitting someone and the expense of someone else. I do think that a better answer is to fix errors quickly, as they come up. Over time I have come to see the purpose of some of the guidelines, but they always create loop holes for the shrewdies.

CAPOEIRA (81) ran 3rd in the Daily News 6.50 L to HAWWAAM and was adjusted +24 to 105. If it were my horse, I would be thrilled to collect the 200k and take the 105, absolutely no question. In his next handicap he gets 6kgs from TWIST OF FATE for 4.90 L.

I agree that horses are at risk of penalties for no reward if they have a go, but to be fair if you take the option for the possibility of huge payouts you have to factor in that risk. Again, quick reassessments would mitigate that risk fairly soon.

I recall Tony Rivalland being a massive defender of the underdog to his credit, but again, that would come at the expense of the top dogs, which to be honest is what handicapping does before you lever in favour of the underdogs. The betting public doesn't want good horses standing in their boxes because they been handicapped out of it! We can't tweak the system till the sick-lame-lazy are more likely to win than the fit and healthy because we tamper so much.

I suspect that some of these small fields are because trainers are managing the programs of some horses in their charge, and are choosing optimum income paths. As an owner, I hardly ever made a profit and the object was to have some excitement with friends & family. Winning was a bonus. We would write off the capital expense immediately and then always budgeted as if income could be zero. We never retired when the writing was on the wall, always choosing to pay a bit more and have a few more goes.

Is it possible that the smaller fields in big races are partly caused by 'professional' management and the absence of owner input? I can't imagine anyone (for whom it's not a business), wanting to stand in the box if there is a race where you are eligible with 6 or 7 runners.
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2 months 2 weeks ago - 2 months 2 weeks ago #762950 by neigh
neigh replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Tony in the "old days" we never had these endless conversations over the MR system because it was simple and easy. "Hero's" were running and the public/punters (even the non racing public) were part of the experience. No bullshit.
Now along come all these very cleaver people and change everything (how many were owners at the time) and the problems never stop. Talking of which Tony, if every owner had to, in reality, think like you did about ownership (which you could have done 20/30 years ago with the stakes) today, why wouldnt you just EFT a donation to your trainer/jockey every month ? You didnt have to listen all the excuses and deal with this MR kak year in and year out.
Could SA ever have Winx (to name one) with our MR system and our programs ? In my opinion we have been limited to very few hero's since the MR system has been introduced. Like most things in life now days we try to appease mediocracy instead of striving for perfection. Sad, but what do I know ?
The real joke is all the "cleaver guys" have never agreed to the MR system in its entirety. How must the average punter, owner and most trainers understand it ?
Last Edit: 2 months 2 weeks ago by neigh.
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2 months 2 weeks ago #762954 by louisg
louisg replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Firstly, Tony makes a lot of sense,when you look purely at the MR system. His knowledge is top class.

I was involved, from the outset of MR. However, it was clear even then, that a hiding was your reward for winning too well or too soon. This is why I had to sell Deliberation to Mauritius... and that trend continued and that is why there was interference with the system and why this interference continued.

Merit Rating was introduced, to lengthen the careers of horses and in so doing provide more runners, for the sake of the developing International Market, Tellytrack Sales, more race meetings. In those days before MR, if a horse took long to win its maiden, it had one or two more runs in a Novice and then moved on to a weaker centre, if those runs were not right on top of the winner. So, in this respect, MR has worked well.

However, we must never forget that in the end, Owners want winners. Simple. An Owner is not happy when told that because his horse is an above average horse/handicapper, it must skip the next two or three wins, due to the attempts of the handicapper, practicing this "Science", which seeks to equalise all horses chances. That Owner thinks, "stuff this, after all that I have put into Racing, when I finally find a nice horse, I get handicapped out of my fair share of wins."

And let's face it, when we equalise the chances, when we attempt to put the field across the finish, all in a line, we make it difficult to find winners. We make it a Lotto. It is surely no coincidence that the more "successful" that the MR system has allegedly become, turnover has declined simultaneously. Yes, punters want an outsider when they have a few horses or field in that leg. But they also need their Banker or two. It's the Bankers which allow them to load the other legs. We called these our "anchors" in the old days...

Racing is difficult to understand as it is. The complex MR system makes it even more difficult to fathom, especially for the majority of Owners and Punters, who fund the Industry.

Finally, the Daily News refers. We can be excited or even smug, in terms of our "understanding of the MR system" when we justify the 24 point increase of the third horse, due to this 91 rated horse running so far above his rating which this MR system allocated him. But, what adjustment was made to the four horses, which were rated 104 and more and which finished behind this MR91 runner ? Should the first two not have run, what then ? What would the new rating be of the third horse, as the winner ? Would we not be questioning the ratings of those behind ? Would we not be thinking that they are not as good as their ratings ? Which way would we adjust ?

And therein lies the real problem. The system is too subjective.
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2 months 2 weeks ago #762969 by onlyinthiscountry
onlyinthiscountry replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Are you being serious every horse MR is going up 10 points? I surely cant be understanding this right. SA horses are around 15 points too high now compared to the rest of the world. If they put it up, thats a sick joke and will ruin any SA horses's chance of having an international career!

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2 months 2 weeks ago #762974 by Mac
Mac replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
Hi onlyinthis... You’ll need to substantiate your claim of SA horses being 15 points too high.



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2 months 2 weeks ago #762984 by Tony Mincione
Tony Mincione replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
The gist of opinions is that the reason for small fields (at least in some part, but you must mean the main part because you give no other) is handicapping.

I will not defend the system here but address the principals of the objections as raised by Neigh and Louisg.

Neigh raises the point that we can't have a WINX here. That isn't exactly true. POCKET POWER won 4 QPs, 3 METS and d/h JULY + more. If he will let me, I would agree that we have "stopped" horses like HOME GUARD (who won 10 races while a 2yo) or even a HEAR THE DRUMS (who won 34 races I think, but a peculiar PE program allowed that to happen).

SENTINEL was the previous record holder with a career:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinel_(horse)

Age Starts Wins 2nds 3rds
At 2: 8 3 2 0
At 3: 15 8 5 1
At 4: 13 8 1 2
At 5: 10 5 5 0
At 6: 10 5 0 2
Totals 56 29 13 5

This career is practically impossible now. But let's be clear, that's a run per month from 2yo till you turn 7. If every horse in SA ran once a month like Sentinel we would have non-stop full fields races every 35min endlessly. Small fields would be our least problem.

A WINX is entirely possible because at Gr1 level you can run in WFA races like LEGAL EAGLE who rarely (and correctly) strays. But we digress.

I think it's ridiculous that good horses say MR 90-105, would worry about penalties as a reason not to run. CAPOEIRA entered the Daily News as an 81, and emerged 105, and beat Zillzaal (105) who is 20th on the July Log. If they knew what the outcome would be, that is 3rd, R200k, MR 105, and you can get into the July in front of Zillzaal, who wouldn't take it because you want to save yourself for some handicaps?

Neigh, the "old days" are just that. If you want them back, then Jocks mustn't fly around, no TV, no gambling competition, no cell phones,1 meeting on a day and "big" yards had 50 horses and a world where clocks ran 50% slower and you bathed instead of showered because you had hours to kill.

Louisg, I think you will agree that to give a horse 6 points per win, or whatever is not handicapping. So if you will concede that, then you should also accept that the bastardisation of the system was primarily motivated by trainers of more modest horses, ie the majority. If we have 3,500 horses in training, and ability is a pyramid with few good on top (say 150) and the majority underneath. The more top horses you have, the less you want to concede a handicap,

Indeed we have given horses longevity, but we have given it to "bad" horses. In the 70's an "A Division" sprint would have a field where the youngest horse might be 7, and typically horses might be 10x winners. Today's big handicap is an F&M86 with 11 runners and the average wins/rnr is 4. We cannot field strong handicaps because we have shaped our population and so we don't have 10x winners who are not graded. Even a graded hcp like the Londsdale had an average of 5 wins/rnr. But this is another debate.

None of these answers why horses would rather stand in their box when races have 6,7 or 8 runners. The question is why this is starting to happen in general?
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2 months 2 weeks ago - 2 months 2 weeks ago #762995 by neigh
neigh replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Tony, we have known each other for just about as long as I have been in the game. Its always a pleasure talking to you as I have always valued your input, knowledge and friendship.
Nobody on God's earth has the time (most owners, punters, trainers and jocks) to sit and analyze all this data, as subjective as it is and have a accurate outcome. Unless its your job !!! or you're retired and dislike your spouse intensely. Its not at all user friendly and only the chosen few (that have the time and brains) have the benefit of the system.
Coming back to Winx example. There are not near enough WFA or favourable conditions races to sustain a champion though out a year over all distances. The point I am making is, with the MR system the program has to be fine tuned to cater for all. It doesnt ! Now they have to deal with two variables the MR system and the program. Take your eg of LE why is he only now (top horse in SA) going to run in the July and why not during his prime ? (not only because of the race conditions ??)
Tony me mentioning the "old days" was only to point out that an owner could have raced/owned horses with an outlook like you had because of the stake/expense ratio. This however has changed.
Taking all our arguments into account, I agree, doesn't resolve the question of small fields.
As an owner now days, I feel like the "Pied Piper", with us (the owner) being the rats being led by our noses to a sad end. Every aspect of the racing industry is for the benefit of everyone except the owner. (thank you for me being able to explain myself using your analogy of the "PP" from a previous conversation :lol: )
To sum up how I feel about the way the industry treats its owners here an example that I was very privileged to have experienced (as though I never paid for it). Some 10 years back I had the privilege to have a share in a horse that won the biggest race in SA. :woohoo: :woohoo: The memorabilia handed out after the race was given to the jock, trainer (both being paid to do their job by the owner) and to ONE owner. It cost me and two of the partners (10 years ago) R9500 to "buy this privilege" of having a keepsake. How wrong is that ? It shows you where we (the owner) stand in the food chain.
And now, our horses stand in their boxes, in part, because of a system.............. :(
It is now a great time to clean house and level the playing fields.
Last Edit: 2 months 2 weeks ago by neigh.
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2 months 2 weeks ago #763001 by Mac
Mac replied the topic: Re:Why the small fields?
All I want as a racing fan is a very close assessment of how good a particular horse is. I understand that the MR system accommodates this. What I object to is all the constraints which are built into this system. Back to small fields...


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2 months 2 weeks ago #763007 by Tony Mincione
Tony Mincione replied the topic: Why the small fields?
I take your points. As for Winx, there is no point in comparing SA with Australia unfortunately, not even to make a point. We have at best 5000 horses in action while Australia has 35,000 horses and nothing compares after currency exchange. But yes, there are many things we can and should do better.

But as an owner, these small fields are great for you. You have fewer horses to put behind you in order to win or earn. In the "old days" you had to run against powerful yards like Terrence Millard with American and Argentinean imports and after a maiden, you still needed to bat your way through Novice s, Graduations and Progresses BEFORE you could get to a handicap. Those top horses had 4 wins spotted to them and were penalty kicks often. Once you got to the handicap we counted the wins. Good luck if your 3x winner met Mark Anthony at level weights when he had won 3 on the way to the Queen's Plate or whatever.

I'm not making any judgements, just saying if you have a horse now, you start getting weight straight after a maiden and the fields can be very small. So for trainers and owners, technically happy days or what am I missing?

On Sat at Kenilworth (let's leave Greyville on Gr1 day) there is a race with 7 runners, 2x with 9 and 2x with 10, and last week five races with 5,6,7,8 and 8. How can anyone argue that people are hard up for a run or to earn? Is it really the handicapping?

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2 months 2 weeks ago #763097 by louisg
louisg replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Tony
Here is what u are missing -
1)Just leave the few top, Feature race horses that we have out of the equation, for a minute. Please explain to me (and to someone like Neigh, who understands the position which Owners are in, nowadays), the following -

An Owner who has put a few million rand into racing over a few years, without much luck, the odd winner here and there, now suddenly finds that he has found a fairly nice filly . This filly is not a Feature type, but the sort who will be a nice handicapper and who will win 5 or 6 races. So, this 3yo filly runs first time out, runs 4th, and then wins easily in a weak field next time out, by many lengths. The filly and her Owner are both " rewarded" by this great MR system with a rating of 88. This rating obviously skips the normal , lower rated races and "equalises" her chances.

Now please tell me how this is good for that Owner and why he should reinvest in racing.

And when you are done explaining, I will explain to you what my alternative option would be, as the Trainer of that filly.

Please factor into your reply, the fact that Training Fees are expensive and that time is money. By running this filly as a 3yo, a lot of money has already gone into the time that was needed, since purchase as a yearling and racing as a 3yo.

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2 months 2 weeks ago #763102 by louisg
louisg replied the topic: Why the small fields?
Onlyinthiscountry, you are almost correct, but on the right path, imho.

The International panel rate our horses separately. At present, our top horses are about 6 points higher here than the ratings of the Int panel . Example, our 124 is about 118 on the Int Panel.

This means that our 124 will go to 134 in August, whilst the Int panel stays 118....
This is why Tony Rivalland suggested a sliding scale, as the crowding is at the bottom end and this is why it made sense to me, the sliding scale suggestion.

But hey, we in Africa. We all know what happened to the Zim Dollar under Mugabe . We are used to these sort of things....

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2 months 2 weeks ago #763125 by onlyinthiscountry
onlyinthiscountry replied the topic: Why the small fields?
but why do we do that, whats the point? Mike de kock said in Dubai they took our ratings for what they are and not the international panel. Not sure if it changed as carnival went on.

Cross Counter won the Melbourne cup and the big one in Dubai. He was a 117, Marinersco arrived in Dubai a 118. Are you kidding me, that our horse is rated higher than Melbourne cup winner! As someone said they have 35 000 horses !

Hermuso Mondo a 104 couldn't even compete in weak grade 3!

Majestic Mambo arrived a 113, lets take a a decent horse , but nothing special Century Dream who finished 0.75 lengths behind roaring lion in a grade 1 at ascot ! Hes a 115. Vivlos from Japan was a 113 and she has proven herself over and over in grade 1 races worldwide. Thunder snow who has won the Dubai world cup twice is a 122, isnt hawaam higher here? I mean come on. If thunder snow is a 122 with that record, then hawaam is no higher than a 110 until he proves himself overseas. He may be a 122 one day.

In what world do these guys think our horses can compete in a grade 1 in the UK. Yes our freaks in the odd year can, but lately nothing!

Who they trying to fool? whats the point? Why not merit rate our horses properly so they have a chance if they decide to travel
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