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