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Has NHA Lost The Plot?

We have to ask - as this is the inescapable conclusion...

The latest round of handicapping guidelines, announced by the NHA on 20 April and effective from Monday 25 April, make for interesting reading.

Read the details here


Turn Right

The guidelines are to be applied by the official NHA handicappers in their duty to allocate Merit Ratings (MR) to all horses racing in South Africa.

The MR system in itself has a sound base.

It is applied by official handicappers in major international jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, UK, Ireland, France, Singapore.

It is used in the same way by commercial rating agencies, such as Timeform, Racing Post and Sporting Post – whose ratings are calculated using a common method.

Andy at races

Unlike everyone else, the NHA appears to find the accepted system lacking, and has introduced patches to fix it – which are the handicapping guidelines as published.

This begs the question – why?

There is little inherently wrong with the Merit Rating system, as previous research shows – click on the link below for some background.

Read MR Handicapping Works – No Bull

HuhWhat then does the NHA hope to achieve by applying the new guidelines?

Apparently, the one thing the NHA does not want to see are ‘true’ ratings – the ratings a handicapper will arrive at without outside interference.

So what could the NHA’s objective be?

We’re left in the dark, as this is not part of the guidelines as published.

The amended guidelines are highly complicated, ambiguous, and in part virtually impossible to understand.

What, for instance, is meant by:

The following general principle will be followed:

Horses not having made the anticipated WFA improvement must be brought back to 50% of its previous highest nett rating within 2 runs.

Horses not having made the anticipated WFA improvements must be brought back to its highest achieved nett rating within 3 runs.

National Horseracing AuthorityTo the point is the question as to who will administer the guidelines…?

The official handicappers? How will they cope?

And then there’s the NHA’s own Rule 47.3.

47.3 A RACING OPERATOR may include any of the undermentioned types of RACES in a programme and shall comply with the requirements referred to in this RULE for such RACES:-

47.3.2 a handicap, which shall be a RACE in which the weights to be carried by the HORSES are allocated by the handicapper for the purpose of equalising their chances of winning

By condoning the use of guidelines to amend Merit Ratings, the NHA is in breach of its own Rule.

In addition, by using amended Merit Ratings the Racing Operators will not be in compliance with Rule 47.3.2.

The inescapable conclusion must be that the NHA has lost the plot.

Should we be worried?

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8 comments on “Has NHA Lost The Plot?

  1. Rob Faux says:

    Karel, the problem,as I see it,is, that in your paper “MR handicapping works -No Bull” your preferred unconstrained way of adjusting MR ,means that within a few runs ,most horses MR no longer represent their “innate ability” (your definition) but rather,their current form.As you point out in this article,the moment ratings don’t represent their definition(or rules) ,the system has failed.
    An analysis of many handicap races shows an abundance of runners with large differences between the highest (ability) MR(sic and (current form) MR(sic) so perhaps MR needs to be redefined.
    More importantly,you use a large sample of handicap races to prove the MR are accurate? If all horses are handicapped to dead heat,I don’t see how any result can really be regarded as an upset? It means the results of handicap races can prove whatever is desired!
    A more relevant question,surely,is why it is that so many of our plate races(which should be the most predictable using the official ratings)consistently throw up results that make a mockery of those ratings!
    It strikes me that there needs to be total agreement,by all stakeholders, of how a MR is defined (I notice that in the NHA guidelines,they define handicapping but not MR))and then ensure the ratings represent that definition!
    I would also add that any constantly adjustable rating system can only have any efficacy if coupled with strong regulation of the “consistency” and “run on merit” rules,which is not presently the case !

  2. Pmb says:

    I don’t doubt the intentions are good but the question why the changes? What is the logic behind them?. Has the proposed system been retrospectively examined and tested to see how the model would alter MR of previous runners to spot anomalies and shortcomings?

  3. Love 2 punt says:

    They have lost there plot along time ago, in any sport if you are a match offical you reguraly write exams on your rule book, maybe we can ask them when last was there officals was tested and what would be more intresting the results. They also have regular seminaars were decisions and rules are discussed to be consitent from school level to profesional level. It helps to keep decisions consitent and fair over the board. They are so far behind any amauter sports in how officals are trained, but maybe I am wrong and they can shed some light on how there officals are trained and tested reguraly

  4. Warren says:

    Karel – I swear by your Ratings in the SP and have made plenty of winning bets due to this misunderstood phenomenon of the Merit Rating System. Now they have made it even better for us.

    If I was you and your colleges at SP , I would leave this debate and capitalize on your knowledge of knowing and leave the Clowns to run the Circus. They obviously do not have a clue what they are doing, but you are not here to teach them . If they seek your guidance then they must pay or buy a sporting post.

    Sometimes in life ” Where there is Chaos , There is Opportunity. ”

    Joe Soma once said to me and I quote – “ Why teach a mug.”

    Meaning Why share a picksix pool with a hundred winning tickets , why not be wise and scoop the pool.- Funny he does not take his own advice these days .

  5. Louis Goosen says:

    There have been workshops on the Merit Rating system for more than 3 years now. For me, 3 things have been wrong with the current system –

    1) successful young horses are knocked hard and their careers and earnings potential are severely hampered by this. I have always maintained that when given the choice, I would rather have a 8 time winner from the old Race Figure system than the same horse nowadays, as a 1 time winner rated at 103 and taking a year to get the rating back down, thus ending the same horses career as a 3 or 4 time winner.

    2) The handicappers are quick to raise and very slow to drop ratings.

    3) Irrespective of what the rest of the World do with their ratings, our compliance with what they do, will not keep our local Owners in Racing and overseas countries are not going to come and bail us out.
    For example, UK Racing took a huge knock in stakes which we never did. For this reason, we need to adapt the Merit Rating system in South Africa for the benefit of Racing in South Africa, to sustain our Racing.
    It is also important to note that when our horses travel to most overseas countries, those handicappers re evaluate our horses and apply their own ratings to the horse. Our ratings do not automatically apply.

    We must do our best for our racing. I believe that is what the new changes to our Merit Rating system have sought to achieve and the group of people who handled this are very knowledgeable.

    My only concern is that the finished document and proposed changes were not put out to more racing people for comment and possible further input prior to it being finally published and becoming official.

  6. hilton witz says:

    lg your last comment is easily answered the reason why it isnt put out is because they will not get the answer they want to hear which is prevalent throughout the industry this mindset…i will take odds against that when your horses or the trainers that have asked for these changes get beaten by horses that would have been rightfully penalised before the changes the moaning will start all over again..then your owners will want to know how can this occur …its not if it will happen but when ..

  7. Riaan Heunis says:

    Just to raise another point I can not understand the Reserve Runners most of them get scratched along with other runners , sometimes all of them that makes your PA’s legs with up to 7 horses not to mention P6’s with the new rules . I think the Reserve Runners should only be a official runner if a scratching occurs . This needs to be Looked at !!!

  8. Riaan Heunis says:

    The reason I say this is because if you take place bet at tab and your reserves start from 16 upwards they will only pay 3 places . The bookmakers will also only pay 3 places if no 14 I is a reserve yet all the reserves qualify for PA’s , P6’s And JPT’s if the favorites win in the case of JPT . In a P6 the favorite don’t even need to win if a unraced horse wins , and in a PA all the favorite needs to do is run a place (something to think about)

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