Postponed: worse off in the Arc than he would be in 12 months
PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
POSTPONED is clear favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, but he will carry a weight which officials last week admitted puts him at a disadvantage.
We all knew three-year-olds, who have won 15 of the last 20 runnings of the Arc, had a bit of an advantage in the race, but last week the BHA confirmed it with the release of the new weight-for-age scale, set to come into force across Europe next year.
This year three-year-olds in the Arc will get a 3.5kg (7.7lb) allowance from their older rivals. But next year, under the new scale, that will drop to 6lb, which will be rounded to either 3kg (6.6lb) or 2.5kg (5.5lb) under the French metric system.
Depending whether they round up or down, the change will roughly equate to somewhere between three-quarters of a length and one and a half lengths, which is a significant margin in such a tight race.
In fact, if you apply the new weight-for-age scale to the last 21 runnings of the Arc, we might have celebrated five completely different winners.
Hypothetically speaking, we might have waved goodbye to Workforce, Rail Link, Dalakhani, Montjeu and Lammtarra and welcomed home Arc winners Freedom Cry, El Condor Pasa, Mubtaker, Pride and Nakayama Festa – those five being older horses who lost out to three-year-olds by three-quarters of a length or less.
International fans will note that two of the unlucky older horses were trained in Japan. If Nakayama Festa and El Condor Pasa had both gone in, Japan would now have two Arc winners instead of their current tally of zero winners and a long list of near misses.
Of course, extra weight wouldn’t have stopped all five of those three-year-old winners and it would have been hard to see Dalakhani losing out to Mubtaker, for example, even with a bit extra on his back.
But the research has shown that three-year-olds have been enjoying an unfair advantage, so much so the authorities have had no option but to enforce sweeping changes.
It may be all too late for Postponed, who will still have to ship 3.5kg to his younger rivals like Harzand and Makahiki.
Clearly it makes sense to enforce the changes at the start of a calendar year instead of upsetting the current scale halfway through the season, but you have to wonder why they decided to publish them now and pave the way for some major controversies in races run between now and the new year.
The results of the study by the European Pattern Committee clearly showed three-year-olds improved their results against older horses over longer distances in the autumn, but the question is whether weight will remedy that skew or whether there is a different reason entirely.
We won’t know the answer to whether the tweaks will make a difference until a follow-up study is conducted a few years down the line to see whether weight carried really can make a difference.
If it can, then a narrow defeat for Postponed to one of his younger rivals would sit somewhere between utterly galling and completely unjust.
However, even with the weights against him, Postponed still tops the RPRs for Sunday. He is unbeaten since last summer, has improved his RPRs this season and looked an absolute star when winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June. Let’s just hope for a fair result.
US star filly Songbird (124) posted the performance of the week in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx on Saturday.
It was the strongest field she had ever faced and she produced her best ever performance to beat Carina Mia by a cosy five and three-quarter lengths for her 11th straight win.
She heads next to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which she could face champion older mare Beholder.
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