Racing Victoria (RV) has today announced two programming changes aimed at improving the racing opportunities and competitiveness of lower rated horses, which will take effect from the beginning of the 2022-23 racing season on 1 August.
The changes, which come following consultation with the Australian Trainers Association (ATA), are the reintroduction of 0-64 rating races and the removal of a 2kg premium on the Benchmark 58 weight scale.
The 0-64 races will be programmed right across the state with an average of three per week.
These races will come from within the existing racing program, primarily replacing a portion of current Benchmark 58 races along with some Benchmark 64 races.
Benchmark 64, Benchmark 58, and 0-58 races will all stay within the racing program, with the new 0-64 races added to give more breadth to the opportunities on offer in Victoria.
At present, horses rated 59 and above win Benchmark 58 races disproportionately – representing 50 per cent of starters and 66 per cent of winners.
The reintroduction of 0-64 races offers horses rated 59 and above a new class of race in which they can be competitive, potentially reducing their presence in Benchmark 58 races and enhancing the chances of lower rated horses within that class.
Following an across-the-board raising of weights during the COVID pandemic, the higher weight scale for Benchmark 58 races was adopted on an ongoing basis in January 2021, in consultation with the ATA, in an attempt to minimise the prevalence of higher rated horses dropping back into Benchmark 58 races.
Whilst it had a marginal effect initially, its long-term impact has been limited hence the decision by RV, with the support of the ATA, to return to a traditional weight scale of 60kg for 58 rated older males on a 54kg minimum.
RV Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said: “The reintroduction of 0-64 rating races is an initiative that trainers have been requesting for some time and we see it as a positive step to make racing in Victoria even more competitive.
“Currently around 40 per cent of runners and 50 per cent of winners run above their benchmark grade in Victoria. This change is aimed at providing horses rated below 59 greater opportunities to start in and win Benchmark 58 races, while horses rated 59 to 64 can remain competitive in the new 0-64 races.
“The 2kg premium that has been in place over the past 18 months has had a limited impact on reducing the number of horses rated 59 and higher competing in Benchmark 58 races. With the reintroduction of the new 0-64 races, we will remove that weight premium and return to a traditional scale.
“Racing Victoria would like to thank the ATA for their input and advocacy for these programming changes which we consider will improve the opportunities and competitiveness for lower rated horses in Victoria.”
ATA Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Nicholl, said: “This is a terrific outcome, with many trainers having shared their own views with the ATA on the need for these changes.
“It is important we cater to the needs of the entire training cohort, and these changes will greatly support those with lower rated horses in particular, by expanding the opportunities for ‘in-class’ racing.
“This is a wonderful example of the constructive dialogue the ATA has with RV’s Racing Department - adjusting the Benchmark 58 weight scale and reintroducing 0-64 races into the program demonstrates a terrific alignment in our respective thinking for making positive change to the racing program as and when it is needed.”