Handicapper responds to Irish criticism

THE BHA’s head of handicapping has responded to criticism over his treatment of Irish runners in the Grand National weights.

Phil Smith has justified his policy of handicapping Irish horses separately to the Irish Turf Club after the racing manager for Gigginstown House Stud suggested Don Poli is unlikely to race at Aintree as a result of his mark.

Don Poli, current ante-post favourite for the National, has carried his ITC mark of 161 in three unsuccessful starts in Ireland this year but will be saddled with 163 at Aintree.

Eddie O’Leary, speaking to the Irish Independent, also slammed the race as a “post-Brexit handicap”, seemingly implying a pro-British slant from the handicapper.

Smith responded: “He has always been 165 with us [in Britain] and that was his mark in the Anglo-Irish classification last season, since when he’s been second and third in two Grade 1s.

“He has been compressed to 163 for the Grand National, which is in line with the others at the top of the weights,” he added.

The top five horses in this year’s Grand National, all Irish-trained, have been compressed, but only from their BHA ratings meaning that four of the five will run at Aintree from higher marks than they would in any Irish handicap.

Smith told ATR: “We spend around an extra 18 hours a week, that?s about three hours a week for each of our six jumps handicappers, to keep [separate] Irish ratings. We do it because we want our handicaps to be as competitive as possible.”

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