Racing: Handicapper throws his weight about

THREE OF the most reliable rules in the world of employment are that coal miners get dirty, lawyers overcharge, and handicappers are unpopular with trainers. If your job is to hand out racing weights, when even a pound can make the difference between success and failure, it is inevitable that someone will always end up feeling aggrieved, and probably willing to tell the world about it.

Rarely, though, does a handicapper come in for the sort of sustained criticism which has been directed at Phil Smith over the past couple of days. Smith recently replaced Christopher Mordaunt as the BHB's senior chase handicapper, having spent several years rating sprinters on the Flat, at the other end of the equine scale in terms of age and distance. Since then, a succession of trainers have expressed annoyance at some of his decisions, such as a rise of 8lb for General Wolfe's four-length victory in the Peter Marsh Chase, and a 20lb increase for Flaxley Wood, who won a novice chase at Cheltenham last weekend, but only after Unsinkable Boxer, the hot favourite, fell.

Toby Balding, the chairman of the National Trainers' Federation's jumps committee, said yesterday that Smith had "a totally new way of handicapping. Our real problem is that he's a relative new boy, and a mathematician who's handicapped nothing but Flat horses. I've been getting lots of messages from trainers who think they're hard done-by, and I think it needs to be discussed."

Balding feels that that the finer points of training jumps horses are being overlooked. "What he hasn't yet taken into account is the peculiar nature of the jumping herd," he said. "Most of them live with injury, lots of them disappear for long lengths of time, and if you're actually lucky enough to get a horse back and to get it winning, you don't want it handicapped out of existence as soon as it's won. A jumper can win by 12 lengths, but the second may not have jumped, or handled the ground. The variables are so much bigger, and distances aren't really what it's about."

As Balding admits, Bob Buckler's complaints about the handicapping of Flaxley Wood are "probably not the best example". Flaxley Wood might or might not have won had Unsinkable Boxer stayed on his feet, but a more important point is that he was racing from 15lb out of the handicap. When a trainer, in effect, personally hikes his horse in the weights, he can hardly complain if the horse runs well and the handicapper treats the form literally.

Some of Smith's other decisions, though, seem to have less to back them up. When Looks Like Trouble, who is trained by Noel Chance, won a novice chase at Doncaster in which only five of the 12 starters reached the finish, and Princeful was among the fallers, he went up 17lb. "He's basically been told, you've got lucky, now that's you," Balding said.

Balding, and any other trainers who care to attend, will be able to air their worries at a meeting with Smith, as well as Paul Greeves, the BHB's racing director, a week today. Greeves, though, is steadfast in his defence of the man he appointed to succeed Mordaunt.

"Change is always a bit unsettling," he said yesterday, "and that's what is happening here. To suggest that Phil Smith is incompetent is just utter nonsense and not worthy of anybody. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out the difference between the Flat and jumps, and that is that the horses can fall over, and the distances of the races mean that the horses can be very tired at the end. But Phil Smith is perfectly well aware of that."

Greeves says that "we are always happy to discuss these matters with trainers, provided they come through the right channels". Whether the trainers will be any happier after next week's meeting is rather less certain - but then, perhaps that simply means that Smith is doing his job.

A recurrence of leg trouble may keep Danoli out of the line-up for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Palais

(Southwell 4.20)

NB: Be Brave

(Catterick 2.30)

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week