No more no-hopers in Derby as BHA targets big-race rank outsiders
The BHA has acted to prevent perceived no-hopers running in the sport's biggest races by imposing a minimum rating requirement for all Group 1s on the Flat for three-year-olds and older.
In a move designed to prevent the kind of controversy that overshadowed the build-up to this year's Derby, when 1,000-1 chance Diore Lia was declared to run, all future runners in the race will need to have attained a rating of 80 to take part.
Unveiling the move on Monday, the BHA said it was introducing the restrictions to protect the welfare of horses and riders, reduce the likelihood of unsatisfactory results, and preserve the reputation of its championship events.
A similar rule will come into force over jumps, with a minimum rating of 130 required to run in non-novice Grade 1 chases and hurdles and 120 for Grade 1 novice chases, in line with a policy already in place for the major races at the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National meeting.
There will be no change to Group 1s for two-year-olds and Grade 1 novice hurdles, which will have no minimum rating requirement.
Between 2005 and 2016 only six horses contested Group 1s on the Flat in Britain who would not have been eligible under the changes to be introduced next year.
Trainer John Ryan was responsible for 2013 Derby participant Ocean Applause – who finished 11th of 12 – and would have been prevented from running the maiden Dream Start in this year's 1,000 Guineas had the rules been in place. Dream Start finished last, beaten 58 lengths.
He said: "I can understand where some people are coming from if you're going to run a no-hoper 60-rated horse that's never going to be better.
"In the case of Dream Start, she was an Exceed And Excel filly out of a very good mare owned by Shekh Mohammed. She had an injury and had to have an operation. She came back and the dream was to run in a Guineas.
"Unfortunately she wasn't quite good enough, but do you stop a man having a dream? She didn't run badly, didn't get in anybody's way and didn't trip anybody up. We have to be very careful in deciding who's fit to play in our game and who isn't. "
The introduction of a minimum rating requirement was already being considered when the Professional Jockeys Association called for a solution to the issue earlier this year when Diore Lia, a maiden who had achieved a Racing Post Rating of 52, was declared for the Derby.
The BHA prevented apprentice Gina Mangan from riding her, ruling she was not experienced enough for such a big race, and the filly was scratched on the day of the race due to injury.
There have, however, been horses with little or no form who have contested the Derby
Ruth Quinn, the BHA's director of international racing and racing development, said: "The question of whether races that form the pinnacle of our sport should require a minimum standard of competitiveness from equine participants is one that has been discussed in the past, but without agreement being reached.
"Thanks to the PJA putting it back on the agenda, a further proposal was already being considered by the Flat Pattern Committee before the issues surrounding this year’s Derby put into clear focus the need for action.
"Introducing a minimum rating for these races has three clear benefits. First, it will help protect the welfare of the human and equine participants in our major races by reducing the risk that comes with inferior horses competing against far superior opponents.
"Second, it will ensure the risk of unsatisfactory results in these races is reduced by taking out the unknown factor and complications that can be caused in running by an inferior horse.
"Finally, it will help preserve the reputation and public perception of our top races as crown-jewel events, ensuring the focus can remain on these races identifying and celebrating our sport’s champions."
Horses will need to have achieved an official rating of at least 80 by the day before the confirmation stage of the race or, in the absence of a mark, their racecourse performance assessed by the handicapper as being 80 or more.
The initial 80 figure was unanimously agreed by the Flat Pattern Committee, but Quinn said the level could be raised in future if necessary.
PJA executive director Dale Gibson said safety and welfare of horse and jockey were the overriding reasons for wanting the BHA to act.
"Horses asked to race way out of their comfort zone in any major race present unique issues to other participants and rivals, not just in the shape of how the race is run but also increasing the potential for interference and possible incidents," he said.
"Other major racing jurisdictions have similar restrictions. We totally support this decision."
With entries for the 2018 Investec Derby having already been made, owners have been written to and informed of the change in the race conditions.
Horses who would have been ineligible for Group 1s they contested . . .
Year Race Horse Position/Runners Rating Odds
2013 Derby Ocean Applause 11/12 74 100-1
2012 St Leger Dartford 9/9 75 100-1
2011 Derby Castlemorris King 12/13 52 150-1
2011 Derby Marhaba Malyoon 13/13 78 100-1
2006 Gold Cup Motafarred 11/12 75 200-1
2005 St James's Palace Vanadium 7/8 78 100-1
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