Mon | Aug 21, 2017

For the record, Gordon Robinson

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Gordon Robinson's column of May 31, 2015, titled 'This vision's too big for your brain', responding to my view he has "a lack of understanding of the promotion of horse racing as well as the purpose and methodology of the handicapping" confirms his limitations.

A Handicap System is a method of classification of a racing jurisdiction's equine population giving a perception the ones of similar abilities race together for competitive wagering. A weight-for-age table is developed to determine where career begins in terms of classification.

There are guidelines relating to time of a race, weight carried, track conditions and winning distances evaluated in the results, as well as other factors dictating the rating adjustment of horses' performances.

Handicappers equalise the form of all the competing horses. The ratings are then adjusted according to performance to determine weights for each in their next handicap race.

Confirming lack of knowledge here is Gordon's uneducated example of corrupt handicapping quote, "A horse is rated say 78. He wins in a manner that should attract an additional 10 points. Instead, the 'handicapper' adjusts him upwards five pounds and start saving to bet on that horse next time out."

Here is what Gordon with his superficial knowledge doesn't know. Based on the result, the handicapper has to equalise the form of all the horses in that same race. The same race result is handicapped over for adjustment to ratings.

Understating the performance of the winner by a handicapper would mean all the performances have to be treated similarly and, by extension, the scores of horses classified in the group.

Anything else would create inexplicable handicapping anomalies in that particular class, leading to a questioning of the competence and, more important, the handicappers' integrity.


The appeals process and oversight are critical components of any Handicap System even with certain natural checks and balances inherently embedded in the established criteria determining the methodology. The foregoing demonstrates Gordon doesn't understand the process. I challenge him to present what he understands the methodology to be.

Gordon deigns me to speak to the "teeming hundreds of stakeholders, who in 1993, demanded the end of the handicapping/rating system, and I'll hear many, many more examples of corruption of rating systems".

Those "teeming hundreds" did not understand handicapping. More important, they unwittingly discounted the financial fallout imposing the American system would have had.

Great Britain, France, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, and Barbados with viable industries recognise a non-handicap system generates financial losses.

Gordon now does not wish to be drawn into an "argument about handicap versus claiming as it is irrelevant". He now wishes to ignore the fact the racing product determines economic viability. The equivalent of around US$30 million has been lost on operations since 1993.


It must be too late for him to withdraw now. Gordon's new position is only seeking to deflect embarrassment. Further, he now deems the Claiming System a Selling System. His credibility must also now be at risk.

Complimenting "great Danny Melville", the chairman who expanded off-track betting with computerisation in 1989 as the "pools grew exponentially and sales were revolutionised", Gordon omitted conveniently to mention it was under the Handicap System.

In 1992, handicaps' final year, races averaged between 11 and 12 per day, starters 11.23 per race, and race cards between 115 and 116 runners per each of 84 race days. With 77 scheduled for 2015, the legacy of handicapping has been squandered.

The current state of racing means Gordon's "vision" is a long way from becoming reality and it will be interesting to hear the capital outlay required to fund it.

Insistence on less tote take-out is ample evidence he discounts the impact of cost of sales on profitability. Gordon keeps comparing larger markets with Jamaica's while ignoring economies of scale with the volume factor. Bettors collectively possess a finite quantum of funds which can be extracted by competitive programmes.

Prone to be uncomplimentary in claiming non-existent superior knowledge, he thinks the demand for my services over four decades in radio, TV horse racing analysis, presenting of the other major sports, print media, sales, marketing and as a football coach, is only "imagined talent".

Thankfully, he is not immune and not averse, albeit unwittingly, to betray superficial knowledge. Whether I am "educable" or otherwise should not be an issue for Gordon since, although I would, and with confidence, take legal advice from him, I am equally confident there is nothing he can teach me in this particular debate.

Cliff Williams