The racing community has reacted negatively to the handicapping situation in Melbourne that has all runners in Sunday’s Standish Handicap 2017 field equal on 58kg at Flemington Racecourse.
Originally the Darren Weir-trained Lucky Hussler was allocated 61 kilograms and headed the weights at nomination stage for this summer’s $150,000 Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m).
After Weir opted not to accept for his Magic Millions-bound galloper, Racing Victoria (RV) acted according to the current handicapping rules and raised weights four kilograms.
As all other entries for the sprint clash were to have meet Lucky Hussler on the 54kg minimum, they now go up to 58kg.
RV’s chief handicap and Executive General Manager of Racing Greg Carpenter understands the backlash they were now facing from trainers and connections of the eleven Standish Handicap runners.
“In Group and Listed races, if weights have to be raised, all horses go up by the same amount,” he explained.
“Since we moved to spread the weights at acceptance time, it has always been for non-black type races.
“But after the circumstances that have arisen this week – the perception and the negative feedback from trainers – it has to change.”
The altered rules in the future will see all races, aside from the top level Group 1s, treated as non-black type events in a situation like the Standish Handicap to ensure an even spread of weights.
If that were the case for the New Year’s Day showdown this weekend, the Mick Huxtable-trained Lord Aspen and Weir’s remaining runner Thermal Current would carry 58kg top weight as 98 handicap rated runners.
The Will Clarken-trained Cavaloce as a mare with a 97 handicap rating would then get in on 55.5kg, but as it stands she faces a tough task on 58kg on Sunday.
“With non-black type races, if the top weight at acceptance time has not got 58k [kgs], then the next highest-weighted horse goes to 58 and then the weights of other runners only go up if they are off the minimum [weight] or their actual rating on the minimum would mean that their true weight must go up,” Carpenter said.
“If the Standish had been a non-black type race, Lord Aspen and Thermal Current would have gone up 4kgs to 58 as they are rated at 98 while Cavaloce, who is rated 97 but is a mare, would have gone up to 55.5kgs.
“Odyssey Moon, who is rated 91, so seven points less than Lord Aspen and Thermal Current – so that’s 3.5 kilos – would have gone from 54 to 54.5 and every other runner would have stayed on 54.”
Current Standish Handicap markets at Ladbrokes.com.au have the Brendan McCarthy-trained four-year-old Divine Mr Artie as the firm $2.70 favourite.
He comes off a win at the track and distance by three lengths first-up on December 10 under 56kg and has Craig Williams retaining the ride.
Seeing the straight track for the first time is the aforementioned Cavaloce, the six-year-old daughter of Testa Rossa coming off a Listed win over 1200m at home in Adelaide.
She gets three weeks between runs and jumps from gate 10 with Mark Zahra coming aboard for her second Flemington run.
Her maiden start at the famous Victorian racecourse was two back on Melbourne Cup Day when under two and a half-lengths off the winner Artistry in a Group 3 over 1400m.
Clarken is happy with the condition of his Standish Handicap runner and hopes she can overcome the ‘Straight Six’ and big weight to continue her winning ways.
“She likes her races spaced which is what we’ve done and we expect her to run very well,” he told the media this week.
“My horses generally as a rule haven’t raced very well down the straight before, but she’s got a lot more class than what I’ve taken there before.
“She likes to build speed which is how they race down the straight now.
“They don’t go hard early, they gradually pick up and that will suit her.
“She’s a big mare and she needs space, so hopefully it’s not a mad outside rail bias.
“It’s not my favourite course but it’s a race that suits her.
“She’s good at the distance. She’s got a good jockey and the horse is in great form.”
Cavaloce has been backed in early from $7 to $6.50 in Standish Handicap betting at Ladbrokes.