I can 100 per cent understand the frustrations around superstar pacing filly Princess Tiffany.
And while she was never going to start in Friday night’s Easter Cup, the fact her trainers nominated her to highlight her position in the rating system worked.
Because it made me look.
Like many of you, I am sure, I only ever consider the ratings system through the prism of how it affects me. More specifically my horses or my punting.
So, I hadn’t given much thought to what rating horses like Princess Tiffany or Ultimate Sniper were because I only tend to think of them in the scheme of where they will race next.
More often than not that is in the best three-year-old races and their ratings don’t matter.
But it is when they need lead-up races to those best three-year-old races it does matter and that is the case with Princess Tiffany this week.
The All Stars want to keep her ticking over as she needs to qualify for the Nevele R Fillies Final with a heat run in a few weeks and then has three group ones in four weeks next month.
The problem is the only two races she was eligible for at Addington this Friday were the Derby and the Easter Cup because she is rated at 94.
They were never going to start her in the Easter Cup but nominated her to highlight her plight and once I ran my eyes down the entries for the Easter Cup the rating stands out.
After all, Princess Tiffany has only won two races against her own age and sex this season and yet she is rated on roughly the same mark as Henry Hubert, who beat Thefixer off level marks last week but is rated only 97, so more or less the same as Princess Tiffany.
I have no problems with Henry Hubert’s mark as he has had his fair share of defeats before his stunning last two wins but the Princess Tiffany rating is hard to fathom.
“…it still seems apparent we should cap three-year-olds during the season at, and this is my best guess, a rating 85.”
She is, after all, only a three-year-old filly and while what she did in the NSW Oaks was remarkable, she can’t be and isn’t rated on her potential.
The problem of course comes that she started the season with a high rating because of her unbeaten two-year-old term but it really shouldn’t matter what you do at two and then add a couple of wins at three, there isn’t any way a filly should be rated the same as a last-start Superstars winner.
Almost as brutally, Princess Tiffany’s 94 rating points puts her alongside Ultimate Sniper, who has won the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series and Northern Derby this season and is the hot favourite for the Derby on Friday.
So, as best I can work it out knowing all the horses involved, Princess Tiffany’s rating is too high. And taking a line through the fact Ultimate Sniper’s serious wins have all come against his own age, his rating shouldn’t be almost as high as Henry Herbert and Alta Maestro either.
I am not pretending I have all the answers to the handicapping, ratings or programming problems and I have been very open before about the fact they rarely affect my life.
But it still seems apparent we should cap three-year-olds during the season at, and this is my best guess, a rating 85.
That would mean Princess Tiffany could start in the Rating 55 to 90 race this week against the likes of Nandolo and Mikey Maguire, which would still be a hell of an ask but not as unrealistic as her 94 rating.
And if an 85 cap sounds way too low to you, consider the fact Forgotten Highway is rated 85 and he has run second in a Methven Cup and a Canterbury Classic this season and won just last Sunday.
He is a good, tough pacer who wouldn’t be out of place in the New Zealand Cup so no matter how good your three-year-old pacer is, taking on Forgotten Highway and his mates isn’t going to be a walkover.
There is, however, one touch of irony in the rating of our best young horses being too high.
And that is it has forced some to be sold or race in Australia for extended periods of time where they are handicapped way, way too softly.
The Aussies basically don’t count any two or three-year-old wins once you turn four and that saw the rather ludicrous situation where the start after Spankem finished fourth in the Inter Dominion Grand Final he was able to start in a c3-4 race at Ballarat.
That was AFTER he had won two Inter Dominion heats and the Kaikoura Cup!!
So, while I am convinced our system is too hard on the best three-year-olds and horses getting through the grades too quickly, I also think the Australian system is too soft.
Do I know how to completely fix either? No.
But I think the capping of the best three-year-olds regardless of what they achieve the best idea because, with the money and enormous array of races available to three-year-olds in their own age group, how often as they really going to take on the older horses anyway?
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
As a lover of the straight-out trotter, I was probably looking forward to the clash of the big three Monbet, Marcoola and Speeding Spur at Addington this Friday more than any adult should be.
But the racing Gods giveth, and then they taketh away. Or something like that.
I had a feeling one of them wouldn’t appear in the entries for the $100,000 NZ Trot Champs this week and sadly it was Monbet.
It sounds like his latest in a very long line of hassles is only a splint problem, so nowhere as bad as some of the issues that have sidelined him in the past.
But he will miss this week and there has to be at least some doubt, possibly clarified by the time you read this, over his participation in the Anzac and Rowe Cups in Auckland.
Considering those two races are likely to be the last of Speeding Spur’s career as a stud career beckons, if Monbet doesn’t make it to Auckland the big three of the modern era will never have met in the same race.
But I take some small consolation in the fact that their only meetings being when Monbet can’t be at his best and you have to really wonder whether Speeding Spur can be either, would it be a fair examination of their talents?
Maybe it will be a race only ever run over a few beers on a quiet winter night at the pub.
RIGHT TIME TO OPEN ODDS
I was rather surprised to find out one of the Australian corporate bookmakers has already opened their markets on the Harness Jewels this week.
I would say pleasantly surprised because it also makes me annoyed our bookies haven’t.
I understand both sides of the equation. Most corporate bookies don’t let winning punters on for much so the opening of a market can be a token gesture.
And the TAB is bound to let punters on for more, hence copping greater damage if they get things wrong.
But two months out from the Jewels is a fair enough time frame to open the markets and as mentioned in the past they tend to be open for elite galloping races this far out.
Yes, it is a hell of a job but we do have Jewels Leaderboards as a guide and we all watch the lead-up races play out live together so there aren’t many great secrets. With overseas bookmakers among those vying for the TAB’s key role as the betting supplier to the New Zealand public, any win for them is a win the TAB should try and negate.
So, the NZ markets for the Jewels should be open as soon as possible. Like now.
IF I AM HAVING A BET: I’d use Revolver (Alex Park R5, No.11) as my multi anchor because he looks a good thing.