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Industry Feedback on New Harness Business Model

Over the past few months RWWA has conducted a number of workshops seeking feedback from Industry participants on the introduction of a new business model.

We know that it is often difficult to get to these sessions but your understanding of the proposed changes and your feedback is important to us.

This document seeks to explain what was presented at the workshops and provides trainers and owners an opportunity to explore through the attached program where horses in their stables will transition across.

It is important to understand that this is not just a change to the handicapping system but a more comprehensive change to the way we schedule meetings, program races as well as handicapping those horses selected.

It is also an opportunity to develop more on-line tools (like the HWOE) to give industry participants more information to help them to make more informed decisions as to where they place their horses where they believe they can be the most competitive.

The development of this proposed model has been as a result of extensive research worldwide to look at systems operating in other jurisdictions and seeing how/if they could operate in a Western Australian context. This has been a model developed on extensive feedback and your views are important as we work towards a final model.


Why do we need to change?

There is a need for long term sustainability of the harness code and there are worrying trends in terms of a reduction in horses, owners, participants.  The Code also needs to make itself commercially viable and increase its market share through higher wagering turnover.

There is little doubt that the current national system of handicapping horses based on the Restricted (R) Career (C) and Metropolitan (M) conditions is no longer serving the Industry well.  Over the years States have “tinkered” with the model to try and get around the obvious shortfalls resulting in an handicapping system which clearly is not working. 

The introduction of a national “drop back” system coupled with the anomalies of “penalty free racing” has seen horses being able to compete in races which are far below their standing often resulting in short price favourites, poor wagering and disgruntled owners. 

Other States are also reviewing their handicap system with some States considering a ratings based system using overall form.  It is RWWA’s belief however that handicapping horses on anything other than winning form is unfair and that horses running places should not be penalised by moving up a class.

Accordingly RWWA is proposing a Conditioned Handicapping system based on Wins only.

How will we know if we are successful?

When making any changes to our code we need to be very mindful of three key areas ensuring that any changes made do not adversely impact wagering turnover, sustainability of clubs and the general satisfaction of Industry participants as a whole.

RWWA is confident that should we be able to make the changes proposed we will start to see positive changes in the following key areas.

  • Average Field Sizes
  • Average Starting Prices
  • Wagering Turnover
  • Horse Pools
  • Trainer numbers
  • Distribution of stakes amongst owners
  • Breeding numbers
  • Owner Numbers

What has been done so far?

RWWA has already made some changes which we believe will significantly assist the Industry move forward with the creation of racing circuits at the following levels:

  • Community
  • Provincial 2 / Country
  • Metropolitan Midweek/ Provincial 1
  • Metropolitan Prime
  • In addition, a payments back to last system was introduced at the beginning of the season whereby $100 is paid as stakes for horses finishing 6th to last in races less than $10,000  and payments of 1% for horses finishing 6th to last in races with stakes greater than $10,000.  There was no change to the current system for races over $100,000.

There has also been changes to the way in which races are programmed and you will have noticed already that we have moved from a 13 week program to a more dynamic 6 week program with a rolling fortnight. 

The advantage of this new initiative is that races programmed will be based on the known population of horses in the race pool at the time rather than rely on a more historical approach that we have had in the past. 

This approach should see larger fields as we will be programming races to meet the demands of a known horse pool population.

What is the general philosophy of the new handicapping system?

When developing a new handicapping system it was important to assess it against what RWWA believed were a set of non-negotiable points.

These are listed below for your consideration and feedback:

  • The new system should be a conditioned handicap system which focusses on “winning form” only
  • A horse should race like for like where possible 
  • Where possible horses should race with same sex and if pool sizes don’t allow this then concessions should apply
  • Race fields should be framed to ensure competitiveness
  • Trainers/Owners should have options where to place their horses 
  • Historic form as well as current form needs to be considered when handicapping
  • Juveniles should be granted some dispensation before reaching open class
  • Mares should be granted a “discount” to assist them enter a race
  • Concession drivers should be granted a “discount” to assist them enter a race
  • Horse is only entitled to receive a single “discount” to assist them enter a race
  • A horse should have a legitimate racing opportunity once in every 10 days
  • Horses out of form need to be provided racing opportunities outside of their allocated class
  • Programs need to be dynamic and reflect the current population of horses
  • Stake levels should reflect the relative class of horses racing by venue and be tiered
  • Prevent horses “creeping” into lower level races by virtue of anomalies in handicapping 

An Explanation of Handicap Win Only Earnings

The previous handicapping system grouped horses together according to the number of wins across a variety of classes.  Unfortunately with drop back rules and penalty free races it was never easy to ascertain just how many wins a horse actually had.  This was particularly the case in maiden races where genuine no win horses may have been competing against other horse’s coming out of successful juvenile seasons.

The new system proposes to group horses together based simply on the amount of dollars they have made WINNING a race.

Put simply each time you WIN a race the dollar value paid for first is accumulated as your WOE (Win Only Earnings)

Place money and payments back to last do NOT get counted in this calculation and Westbred and other Bonuses are also not included.

This amount would be referred to as a horses Win Only Earnings.

It is recognised however that some horses may win a significant amount of money as a juvenile and it would be unfair to penalise that horse for the rest of its racing career.

Accordingly it is proposed that the grouping of horses for the future will be based on a Handicapped Win Only Earnings or HWOE.

This calculation is similar to the WOE EXCEPT the dollar value paid for winning is normalised back to a Win Value using a formula to take into account various situations such as 2YO/3YO earnings and also Feature Stakes Wins.

The discounts for these two and three year old seasons are below.

What is being proposed?

As mentioned previously, we are seeking your feedback on the implementation of a conditioned handicapping system which groups horses together for the purpose of handicapping based on the stakes they have earned for WINNING races.

It is acknowledged however that two and three years should be treated differently to ensure that when they progress into open company that they are not overly penalised.  That said, we do not believe that horses that win a considerable number of races, particularly group races, should enter the open class system as a maiden.

To accommodate both those scenarios above, the following is proposed:

  • 2yo wins in races less than $100,000 then 25% of win stake to a maximum of $3,750
  • 2yo wins in races $100,000+ then 25% of win stake to a maximum of $7,500
  • 3yo wins in races less than $100,000 then 50% of win stake to a maximum of $7,500
  • 3yo wins in races $100,000+ then 50% of win stake to a maximum of $15,000
  • 4yo+ wins in races less than $100,000 then 100% of win stake to a maximum of $15,000
  • 4yo+ wins in races $100,000+ then 100% of win stake to a maximum of $30,000

By placing these maximum limits on the races we ensure that successful horses are not overly penalised for winning Group races with large stakes but at the same time protect genuine maidens form having to meet these more successful horses as they progress.

The collection of these stakes against a horse are known as the horses HANDICAP WIN ONLY EARNINGS or HWOE.


How will we transition horses to determine their HWOE (Handicap Win Only Earnings)

To ensure that horses are not overly penalised in the transition to the proposed system it is intended to make two calculations.  The first is to actually work out your actual HWOE based on the formula above.

It is acknowledged however  that many horses have risen and dropped in class over the years with the current drop back rule and while may only be lowly classed now, may have in fact won a number of races through a  range of classes over the years.  To use ALL their win dollars would see these horses transition at a much higher level than they currently are.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen the second calculation that will be made will be to simply take your horse’s current assessment at a given date and assign an arbitrary HWOE figure based on that classification as per the table below.

We will assign your horses HWOE based on the LOWER of those two calculations.

To check your horses proposed HWOE:

Follow the link below and check out what your HWOE are for your horse.

What races will be programmed?

The following table gives you an example of how a program might read:

Race Conditions
HWOE LT $40,000 (RBD)  
ALSO ELIGIBLE - HWOE LT $60,000 With L5$ LT $3,000.  
Preference to HWOE GTE $20,000  
  L5$ LT $5,000
  CONCESSION L5$ LT $5,500
  NOT ELIGIBLE - Starters in a HWOE LT $60,000 (Level 10) or higher Last 5 Starts or a Winner in THIS CLASS or higher Last 5.
  Alternate Weeks Random Barrier Draw + Grouped Preferential Draw on HWOE or HWOE/L2 (1 x RBD, 1 x Pref, 1 x RBD, 1 x Pref)
HWOE LT $20,000 (RBD)  
ALSO ELIGIBLE - HWOE LT $40,000 With L5$ LT $3,000.  
Preference to HWOE GTE $10,000  
  L5$ LT $3,500
  CONCESSION L5$ LT $4,000
  NOT ELIGIBLE - Starters in a HWOE LT $40,000 (Level 8) or higher Last 5 Starts or a Winner in THIS CLASS or higher Last 5.
  Alternate RBD & Grouped Pref Draw.
HWOE LT $10,000 (RBD)  
Preference to HWOE GTE $5,000  
HWOE LT $5,000 (RBD)  
Preference to HWOE GTE $2,500  
Maiden (RBD)  

So if we take the race below for example what does it mean?

HWOE LT $40,000 (RBD)
ALSO ELIGIBLE - HWOE LT $60,000 with L5$ LT $3,000.
Preference to HWOE GTE $20,000

So the first criteria is if you have to have a horse that has a HWOE of less than $40,000 to be eligible for this race.  The race however also allows horses to use a concession (concession driver or mare’s concession) to come into this race for those horses with a HWOE of less than $45,000.

To ensure that horses “out of form” also get to race at the most competitive level,  this race allows “out of form” horses with a HWOE of less than $60,000 (next level up) to nominate if in their last five starts they have earned less than $3,000.

As is the case now you can always nominate out of your class however most races will have a preference listed to horses with HWOE one level down.  In this case preference would be given to horses with HWOE greater than $20,000.

You will note that the program above has two columns of races available.  For each group of races less than $40,000 less than $20,000 etc there is a corresponding race in the right hand column for those horses who may be out of form or simply wish to enter into a more competitive race with horses of similar form.

So let’s assume we have the same horses that was eligible for the race that we used in the example above however it is out of form.  

For example:
L5$ LT $5,000
NOT ELIGIBLE - Starters in a HWOE LT $60,000 (Level 10) or higher Last 5 Starts or a Winner in THIS CLASS or higher Last 5

This race is for ALL horses with less than $5,000 or $5,500 with a concession in their last five starts.  Horses who have raced in a higher group (LT $60,000) in their last five starts however are NOT eligible to drop down into this race.  Similarly horses that have won in this class in their last five starts are also ineligible.

Some things to remember:

  • The system is a conditioned handicap system based on handicapped win dollars (HWOE).  
  • Horses will no longer carry a Restricted, Career or Metropolitan assessment.
  • Horses will be classed together according to their HWOE level
  • If a 3 year old races in an open class race it still only earns the stake dollars as it would should it win an aged race. (ie 50%).
  • Maidens will only ever race against horses that have never won a race no matter what age those wins were recorded.
  • You can nominate out of your class
  • Concessions will still apply for mares, Westbreds and concession drivers

What is my horses HWOE?

Follow the link below and check out what your HWOE are for your horse.

Where to from here?

Feedback: We would like feedback on the following:

  • Is your horse transitioning at the right level
  • Are there sufficient races based on the sample programs provided here
  • Can you place your horse at a level that you feel they will be competitive
  • Is the proposed level of concessions for two and three years right (Too generous / too harsh?)
  • Is the proposed level of concessions for mares and concessions drivers right (Too generous / too harsh?)

Please provide your feedback to: 

RWWA would like to give the industry 6 weeks to have a look at the proposed model, test what level their horse’s transitions to and what races are available and provide feedback to us.

From there we will consolidate the feedback and make any changes to the model necessary.

A final draft proposal with then go to the eligible harness bodies for final comment before being passed to the RWWA board for endorsement.


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