In the spotlight: Restricted Races & National Statistics

Friction with restriction - meeting on Tuesday 18 November

The NHA will be holding a Workshop on 18 November, to discuss the effect of races which are restricted to certain horses because of a particular condition on the national statistics and national championship logs.

The NHA states on its website that “The National Horseracing Authority is responsible for maintaining the official statistics for horseracing in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The purpose of the statistics is to provide accurate information for use by the industry.  The information must therefore not be biased or misleading.  Restricted Races have the potential to distort the information significantly and it is important that they be considered very carefully in regard to their inclusion in statistical information.”

It is not clear what exactly is meant by ‘maintaining the official statistics’ – no reference to this can be found in the Constitution or the Rules of NHA. It seems sensible to assume that ‘maintaining statistics’ means the recording of results of races and that the NHA is the custodian of such results.

The definition of a result is the outcome of a race staged by a Racing Operator under the Rules of the NHA. As long as a race conforms to this, the NHA must record the outcome. The NHA does not have the power nor mandate to decide which races to record and which not. Once a race is a race it cannot be ignored on whim, or otherwise.

The statistical manipulation of the outcome of races is not the domain of the NHA.

Such manipulation can be done by anyone, usually for specific purposes. When the NHA states that the purpose of the statistics is to provide ‘accurate information for use by the industry’ it is incorrect. There can be no such thing as accurate statistics, only accurate input of information.

On the point of Restricted races and their possible distortion of information, the point is that anyone can use and manipulate recorded results as is deemed necessary. If the Racing Association wished to stage Equus Awards and omit certain parts of the results record before it decides on awards, it is entitled to do so. If the breeders association wishes to omit certain parts of the results record before it determines the performance of stallions or breeders, it is entitled to do so. If the Sporting Post wishes to publish racing statistics in the way they are published the world over, without omissions, it is entitled to do so. In short, whoever has a purpose may use information to suit that purpose.

All it needs is a clear statement of intent.

In a nutshell, it is not up to the NHA to decide which part of results should count and which shouldn’t. Every result of every legitimate race (as per the NHA’s definition in the Rules) counts. Basta.

This brings us to a comment on a Sporting Post editorial (issue 2095) made in John Freeman’s eNews blog. John writes:

“I am flying to the NHRA meeting on this subject in November to ask them to remove restricted race earnings from all stats, not just those affecting breeders and stallions. I was intrigued by comment in the Sporting Post about this. They use the issue of restricted races to campaign their old hobby-horse about our biggest races not being run on level terms and make the startling observation that “the best horse hardly ever wins” races like the Durban July, the Met and the Summer Cup. Wow! That’s a crazy comment.

They do however ask and answer the question “do ready to run stakes skew the stats?” and their answer to that question is “of course they do”. To suggest, as they do, “but then so do the earnings attributed to the winners of our biggest races”. The comparison is irrelevant for one very important reason. None of the big races are restricted to the lottery style small group of horses and I am getting tired of trying to make this point clear. If we want to start a war in racing to end all wars, just try and add these results into the stats. I hear people screaming blue murder already.”

Two points.

If none of the big races are restricted, then why are there, year after year, unhappy connections of intended runners in the July, where the field size is limited and arbitrary eliminations are made. Millions at stake in a handicap (check the definition!) and horses are tossed out on a whim. But that’s not a restriction, apparently.

The second point goes to the heart of the matter. The best horse hardly ever wins, and the earnings in big races do not reflect excellence, and distort ‘statistics’. John calls that a crazy comment. So let’s have a look at the results of the biggest of them all, the July – on the page opposite. It is rather a long list, but it’s fun to look back in time, regardless.

The ability ratings show which horses put up the best performances, and where they finished. It’s quite fun to see what happened over the years, who got credit for what, and how ratings (ie what’s necessary to win the race) vary from year to year. The full list is linked at the end of this article – for you to ponder.

The Workshop will be held on Tuesday 18th November 2014, commencing at 10:00am, either at The National Horseracing Authority Head Office in Turffontein or at a nearby venue, depending on the number of attendees.

Click here to view the full list

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