The National Steeplechase Association’s newest race will be featured at Parx Racing on Tuesday, July 14, in the $35,000 Ratings Handicap Hurdle. Also on the program will be split divisions of a $30,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle. All three races attracted large fields, and the action kicks off at the suburban Philadelphia track at 12:55 p.m.
The Ratings Handicap was instituted this past spring at the suggestion of the NSA’s Promotion and Growth Task Force as a strategy to provide more racing opportunities for horses after they collect their maiden victories. A staple of jump racing overseas, the Ratings Handicap is especially popular with owners who do not wish to risk losing their horses in claiming races.
“The Ratings Handicap has caught on with our horsemen,” said NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. “The large field for Tuesday’s race is evidence of how owners and trainers have taken to it.”
The starting point for the Ratings Handicap is a numerical rating for every horse in training who has won over hurdles. Under Gallo’s supervision, the ratings were assigned by Joe Clancy, editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and a member of the Promotion and Growth Task Force; chart caller Martin Chamberlin; and race caller Will O’Keefe.
In all, ratings have been assigned to 148 horses, with reigning Eclipse Award champion Demonstrative atop the list at 158 pounds. The list extends to horses with ratings of 90. Race conditions are written for a specific range of ratings. For instance, the Parx race was written for a range of 124 to 90.
Weights are based on the ratings, with the top-rated horse carrying 158 pounds and the remainder of the field weighted according to their ratings down to 140 pounds before any apprentice-rider allowances.
Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, trained by Julie Gomena, carries the 158-pound highweight at Parx based on his 121 rating. He will be ridden by Kieran Norris, who was in the saddle for Balance the Budget’s easy victory in the season-opening Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase in South Carolina on March 21. In his subsequent start, the Bellamy Road gelding was unplaced in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 9.
Sharing the 157-pound weight assignment based on their 120 ratings are Daybreak Stables’ Manacor and Rosbrian Farm’s Wantan. Manacor, a winner at Saratoga Race Course last summer, lost his rider in the Marcellus Frost, and Wantan is coming off an impressive victory in a Radnor Hunt Races allowance hurdle on May 16.
Leading jockey Paddy Young picks up the mount on Manacor from trainer Jimmy Day, and Darren Nagle has a return call for trainer Ricky Hendriks aboard Argentine-bred Wantan.
Day also will saddle S. Bruce Smart Jr.’s Orchestra Leader, who has a win and a second in optional allowance hurdles this year. Sean McDermott will ride Orchestra Leader, whose 117 rating gave him a weight assignment of 154 pounds.