02/11/2004 12:00AM

New ratings use international system

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The first edition of the Canadian Thoroughbred Ratings, which replace the Canadian Free Handicap, were released Wednesday by the Jockey Club of Canada.

The Canadian Ratings follow the model of the International Classifications, which were announced in London, England, last month.

"The rationale of changing the format is to reasonably rate horses running in Canada with the existing International Classifications method," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's director of racing.

Evans is also a member of the International Classifications committee and the architect of the Canadian ratings. "The goal is to have horses who are similarly rated internationally be of comparable quality," he said.

Horses rated at 115 pounds or higher on the International Classifications were given the same rating on the Canadian list. Touch of the Blues, Perfect Soul, Soaring Free, Strut the Stage, and Phoenix Reach are the only such horses rated internationally.

Horses ranked lower than 115 were rated by Evans and a panel of Canadian racing secretaries, with 90 pounds established as the cutoff for inclusion.

The Canadian Free Handicap was a hypothetical handicap, with horses who finished fourth or better in a Canadian stakes race or started in any Grade 1 in Canada qualifying to be weighted based on their overall performances during the season in question. The Canadian Free cutoff was 105 pounds.

The Canadian Thoroughbred Ratings can include any horse who started in a stakes race in Canada; the rating is based upon the horse's single-best performance within the specified distance range.

Under the SMILE model pioneered by the International Classifications, the categories are:

* S - sprint (up to seven furlongs);

* M - mile (greater than seven furlongs, less than 1 3/16 miles);

* I - intermediate (1 3/16 miles to 1 5/16 miles);

* L - long (greater than 1 5/16 miles, up to 1 11/16 miles); and

* E - extended (over 1 11/16 miles).

The L and E categories are combined in the Canadian ratings, since very few races would fall under the E category. Separate ratings are compiled for dirt and turf. Two-year-olds are treated separately, under both the International and Canadian ratings, and are divided by gender only.

In the rating guidelines, one length is equal to about three pounds in the S category, two pounds under M, 1 1/2 pounds under I, and one pound under L/E.

While a horse must have raced in Canada to qualify for the list, a U.S. race can be used to set the rating. For example, Touch of the Blues won Woodbine's Atto Mile, but his 117 rating - the highest overall on the Canadian list - in the Mile turf category was for his second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

Perfect Soul, Canada's champion turf horse, also earned his highest rating in the United States: a 116 in the Mile turf category for his victory in Keeneland's Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile. But since Perfect Soul did not race in an Intermediate turf race in Canada, he did not qualify for a Canadian rating in that category despite his effort in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million.

Generally, horses can be rated only in the division where they earn their highest number, but on both dirt and turf if applicable. However, horses can be rated in multiple divisions if they are equally rated in more than one category or if they are the highest-rated horses of their age and sex in other divisions.

Wando, Canada's horse of the year in 2003, is rated in five categories.

Wando tops the Mile based on his victory in Woodbine's 1 1/16-mile Marine. he tops the Intermediate for his win in the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate. He also is the top-rated 3-year-old in the Sprint category, based on his win in the six-furlong Woodstock, and is the top-rated 3-year-old on both the Mile and Long/Extended turf lists for his fourth-place finish in the Atto Mile and his triumph in Woodbine's 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes.

Soaring Free, who earned his highest rating of 116 in the Mile turf category based on his second-place finish in the Atto, topped the Turf sprint rankings off his score in Woodbine's Nearctic.

Strut the Stage earned the top ranking of 116 in the Long turf category, duplicating his best rating in Woodbine's Niagara and Chinese Cultural Centre.

Phoenix Reach's rating of 115 is for his victory as European in the Canadian International.