As somebody who focuses largely on the Grand National, Phil Smith, is a name I am more than familiar with but it appears that he is going to step down from his role in May 2018, after 22 years of service.
Having joined the then British Horseracing Board in August 1995 as a Flat Handicapper, he was appointed as a senior National Hunt handicapper four years later before becoming the BHA’s head of handicapping in 2007, a position he has held since.
Many know Phil Smith as the BHA Handicapper who introduced the ‘compression’ at the top of the weights in order to improve the quality of the race and to ensure a full field of 40 horses lined up at Aintree every year in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Smith said: “I have really enjoyed my time as an official handicapper. Although I will be moving on from working full time as the head of handicapping, I hope to continue my international commitments and to stay involved in racing utilising the skills and knowledge I have gained over the last 20 years or so.
“During my time at the BHA I have tried to make the methodology and decision making process of handicapping interesting, clearer and less complex, both with explanations of our decisions in the media and to trainers and owners.
“Of course, not everyone has agreed with me all of the time, but that is part and parcel of the job and I can only hope that I have tried to make our methodology as open and understandable as possible.
“For the last 10 years I have been supported by a fantastic team and a brilliant deputy in Dominic Gardiner-Hill and I know they will develop and continue to modernise British handicapping.
“Most importantly I am looking forward to the upcoming winter jumps season and despite my stepping down next year, it will be business as usual.”
At least Phil Smith won’t have to have any more public spats with owners such as Michael O’Leary who threw his toys out the pram last season when his Gigginstown horses were allocated their Grand National weights.
Then again maybe O’Leary has far bigger problems on his plate this year than to worry about whether his horses get 11-10 or 11-09 in the Grand National!