Let’s begin with a very basic handicapping primer (form students can jump to the Bordini/Bay of Freedom discussion)

Both Timeform and Racing Post Ratings (RPR) use a system that differentiates horses based on pounds (weight). In comparing horses in the same race a conversion of pounds / distance is also used. For Bumper races the conversion is typically 1 pound = 1 length. Let’s use an example:

Horse A carries 12 stone (168 pounds) and beats Horse B (also carrying 12 stone) by 10 lengths. A literal interpretation of this form would be that Horse A is 10 pounds better than Horse B

Let’s say they raced again and this time Horse A carried 12 stone but Horse B carried 11 stones, 7 pounds (11-7). Horse A won this time by 3 lengths. Horse A would still be rated 10 pounds better than Horse B because he won by 3 lengths and he was conceding 7 pounds to Horse B

In yet another race Horse A carrying 12-0 was beaten by Horse B (carrying 11-0) by 4 lengths. Once again, Horse A can be seen to be 10 pounds better than Horse B. A quick calculation shows how;

Horse A is beaten 4 lengths by Horse B                      -4 Pounds

Horse A conceded 14 pounds to Horse B                   +14 pounds

Net differential                                                                 +10 pounds


So let’s apply this to Bay of Freedom


 Bordini and  Bay of Freedom

There are very few form lines but one that does exist included Bordini who is one of the favourites for the Champion Bumper. . Settle back, switch off the TV and let’s begin:

16th Oct  Haddington Road finished 6 ½ lengths behind Beau et Sublime conceding 4 pounds. This makes Beau et Sublime a 2 ½ pound better horse than Haddington Road

26th Oct  Bay of Freedom beat Haddington Road by 11 lengths off level weight; this makes Bay of Freedom (using collateral form) an 8 ½  pound better horse than Beau Et Sublime

16th Nov  Bordini beats Beau et Sublime by 5 ½ lengths off level weights. Using this line of form Bay of Freedom would be rated 3 pounds better than Bordini

So, that is the literal interpretation but let’s see what Timeform was saying at this time. As at 27th Oct they had the following ratings

                Bay of Freedom 105+   

                Bordini                 103+

Their differential was 2 pounds; the above differential on collateral form was 3 pounds – pretty close.

Bordini then went and won again and clearly improved from his first run; Timeform  improved his rating by 12 pounds to 115+

Neither Bordini or Bay of Freedom has raced since so their ratings remain Bordini (115+) ; Bay of Freedom (105+) – a differential of 10 pounds

All of this seems logical and fair to my mind.

So what about the Racing Post Ratings?  Well, there is some consistency:

They agreed that Bordini improved from his first to his second race. They increased his rating by 13 pounds (very similar to the increase Timeform applied)

Based on this logic, the RPR for Bordini should be 10-11 pounds higher than Bay of Freedom. For reasons that defy logic and are surely arbitrary, the actual ratings show a difference of a massive 24 pounds:

                Bordini                                  132

                Bay of Freedom                108

There are two reasons for this

1)      When Bordini beat Beau Et Sublime off level weights by 5 ½ lengths RPR gave him a rating that was 8 pounds higher than Beau et Sublime (not the 5-6 pounds supported by the winning distance)

2)      When Beau et Sublime ran against Bordini he achieved the same rating as his first race (Timeform concurred with that) ..so far so good. However, when Haddington Road ran against Bay of Freedom he was assessed as running no less than 11 pounds worse than his first race! There is no logical basis for this decline – Timeform rated Haddington Road’s performance equal to his first race

The combination of 1) 2-3 pounds difference in ratings and 2) 11 pounds differential explains how Bordini is rated 24 pounds better than Bay of Freedom by RPR whereas Timeform rates him ‘only’ 10 pounds better.

It will be interesting to see how the handicapper rates them. One thing is for sure: if the handicapper rates them anywhere around  the 10 pounds differential, then Bay of Freedom will almost certainly get into the race and we won’t have to worry about ballot status or other horses dropping out.

I am clearly biased but, as I always say, there’s a reason why I’m biased. In this case, the reason is the collateral form and the fact that the differential it provides is reflected in the Timeform ratings but clearly is not in the RPR ratings.

I could (and probably should) stop here but examples of bizarre RPR ratings for Bumpers occur almost every day.


RPR Bumper Ratings – Is there a system?

Their system seems to be a little like a recipe for making a cake:

Start with the basic performance

Add 10 pounds if the horse is trained by Willie Mullins (and another five pounds if he  utters the magic words  “Cheltenham”)

Add 10 pounds if the race is a Listed or Winners Bumper

Deduct whatever you want if the basic performance gets you too close to a Willie Mullins  horse or

Add whatever you need to support the inflated rating of a Willie Mullins horse he has run against previously


Ladies and gentlemen I give you the following:

On 18th Jan Balko Des Flos made his debut against other horses also making their debut He is trained by Mullins and duly won beating Jett by 3 lengths and Be My Sea by 14 lengths. The time was ok ; slightly faster than the maiden hurdle earlier that day but 3 seconds slower than the handicap hurdle. There was no previous form to go on but RPR, no doubt encouraged by Willie Mullins mentioning Cheltenham, gave him a rating of 118 (10 pounds higher than Bay of Freedom)

A couple of weeks later Be My Sea reappeared and was beaten 40 lengths into 4th. At the very least this starts to question the initial ratings (RPR, itself, reduced the rating from 104 to 78 for Be My Sea)

On Wednesday, Jett reappeared and was also beaten into 4th place; this time by 16 lengths in receipt of 3 pounds by a horse, Disko, who had never previously run (indicating Disko to have run 19 pounds better than Jett)  The second and third had also not run before so the value of the form is, once again, difficult to assess. Of course, RPR has got itself in a bit of a box: if it reduces Jett’s rating too much then it starts to question the accuracy of the ratings for the Balko Des Flos race (the 4th in that race, Allex Motto,  was beaten by 74 lengths in its next race). Based on the subsequent performances of Jett, Be My Sea and Allez Motto a revision may have been the prudent thing to do; but RPR took a different route: they decided to double down!

Jett was awarded a rating of 113; just 2 pounds lower than his run against Balko Des Flos. This in turn meant that Disko was allotted a rating of 132 on his first run.  To put this in perspective:

- This would make Disko the joint 3rd highest rated Bumper horse of the year according to RPR

- Not only that,  he achieved a rating 7 pounds better than any other Bumper horse has achieved this season on it’s debut (Up for Review)

Disko is not going to Cheltenham and may well be a superstar (he certainly was impressive) but it is difficult to understand the extraordinary rating he has been given

Throughout all of this you may well be asking : If RPR rates Disko 24 pounds better than Bay of Freedom, then what about Timeform?

Well, here’s the answer:

Timeform Ratings:

Bay of Freedom                  105+

Disko                                     105+

Makes you think doesn’t it?