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Mrs. Jessica Harrington (Trainer) Striking - Handicapping Appeal

The Handicapping Appeals Body, Mr. Ian Whelan B.L. (Chair), Mr. William Flood and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened on Monday 8th May 2023 to consider the Appeal of Mrs. Jessica Harrington (Trainer) in relation to the handicapping of Striking following his win in the @Gowranpark Handicap, Gowran Park 19th April 2023.

The Committee considered the appeal of Mrs. Harrington, submissions from Mr. Garry O’ Gorman and Mr. Mark Bird, IHRB Handicappers, and Mrs. Harrington’s response to the submissions of the Handicappers.

In lodging the appeal, Mrs. Harrington submitted that the handicap mark given to Striking was excessive given the grade of the race and quality of opposition. She stated that Striking had previously been unplaced in a handicap of this grade and started favourite in the @Gowranpark Handicap based on recent hurdling exploits.

In their submissions, the Handicappers explained that Striking was raised 13lbs and that the runner up would be 9lbs better off with Striking should they meet again. They stated that the @Gowranpark Handicap was a low grade 47-65 rated handicap. Mr. O’ Gorman agreed that it was a surprise that Striking would start favourite if focussing on his flat career only, and that the most likely reason for being short in the betting was his recent improvements over hurdles. Mr. O’ Gorman further stated that a 9lbs differential between the winner and runner up was warranted having regard to the viewing of the race and determining what was necessary to give both horses an equal chance should they meet again.

Having considered the evidence, the Handicapping Appeals Body stated the following:

“The Committee considered the appeal form lodged by Mrs. Harrington, the extensive and helpful written submissions of the IHRB handicappers, Mr. Garry O’ Gorman and Mr. Mark Bird, and the subsequent written observations of Mrs. Harrington received on the 1st May, 2023.

Striking raced on the flat at Gowran Park where he ran out a comfortable winner of a 47-65 handicap. For that success Striking was reassessed by the handicappers at a mark of 66, representing a rise of 13lbs. Both the handicappers and the appellant agree that the victory was a comfortable one. The only issue between the parties is the severity of the penalty to be imposed as a result of it. 

The Committee agrees entirely with the submission of the handicappers to the effect that the task of the handicappers, and indeed the Committee, is made more difficult when horses are not fully extended and clearly appear to win with something left in hand. The task of quantifying what exactly was left in hand is a difficult one. The Committee agrees with the handicappers that Striking was certainly value for more than his one and a half-length winning margin.

However, the Committee is also cognisant of the fact that the quality of Striking’s opposition on the day in question was relatively moderate. Eight of the other 12 runners were rated inferior to Striking. Although Striking clearly won with something in hand, the Committee is satisfied that there are reasons to conclude that the amount spared may very well have been less than it appeared. The Committee is also satisfied that although Striking was not fully extended at Gowran Park, he was extended to a degree. It is noted that he was not at any point restrained by his jockey and appeared to the Committee to be still running for his jockey, despite not being fully extended by him and despite his jockey repeatedly looking behind him throughout the final furlong. 

The Committee recognise the difficulty necessarily involved in assessing a horse which won as easily as Striking did and acknowledges the expertise and experience of the handicappers in assessing the “value extra” involved for the ease of the win. However, the Committee finds that Striking, while no doubt a convincing winner, was likely not, on balance, so superior to his opposition as to merit a rise of 13lbs. The Committee is satisfied, for the reasons outlined above, and having regard to all of the evidence submitted, that it is reasonable to conclude that a rise of 11lbs from his mark of 53 represents a fair and adequate reassessment for Striking.

The Committee therefore finds as follows:

That the appeal is allowed and that Striking should have his rating reduced from 66 to 64, with effect as soon as possible and that Mrs. Harrington’s deposit is to be returned.”

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