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Handicapping – Let’s Play Fair To All Punters

Call for NHRA to publish 'true' and 'official' merit ratings

The new rules which impose further restrictions on the NHRA handicappers came into force recently. A consequence of these rules is that there will be an increasing number of horses whose official MR will differ from their true MR, suggests Peter de Beyer.

An obvious example is the Mike Bass-trained filly Nightingale, who ran a 0,50 length second to Bela-Bela in the KZN Fillies Guineas (MR 105), but can only go up 5 points to an official MR 92.

Bela-Nela SA Fillies Guineas

Nightingale chases Bela-Bela home

Those of us who can do our own handicapping have no problem dealing with this, and indeed may profit from punting opportunities from these anomalies.

What about the large mass of less sophisticated punters who rely on the official MRs as a guide to  exposed form when structuring their bets?

They are being misled by the official MRs and will inevitably be less successful in their betting endeavours.


Would such a punter necessarily include an MR 92 horse in his exotics at level weights against an MR 106 opponent?

Would his decision change if he was informed that it is actually an MR 105?

If the NHRA is to persist with the current system, then I believe that it is essential to publish the true MR’s of all horses, as well as the adjusted ‘official’ MR’s in order to treat our customers (punters) fairly with respect to the information that is provided.

For background, read more by clicking on the links below:

The handicapping policy changes

And a few questions

Now please take a minute to comment and tell us what you think!

Have Your Say

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16 comments on “Handicapping – Let’s Play Fair To All Punters

  1. Warren says:

    Ed – Now please take a minute to comment and tell us what you think! – Ha 🙂

    I thought we were called Clown Bloggers – What do we know about Handicapping ?

    As far as I am aware according to Louis Goosen three workshops have been held.

    Robert Bloomberg and his band of merry men have sat for hours and hours putting these suggestions forward and working very hard . I to hear that Mr Robert Bloomberg was commissioned by various organizations within the industry and paid a healthy sum of money for his Handicapping Input and Ed you want us to tell you what we think. Knowing Robert and how busy he is – so I am sure he did not do it for free.

    However I do agree with Peter de Beyer – A man I respect and is a personal Friend ) – as to the industry to try find some sort of solution that is more fair for everyone .

    Would such a punter necessarily include an MR 92 horse in his exotics at level weights against a MR 106 opponent?
    – I doubt It

    Would his decision change if he was informed that it is actually a MR 105?
    – Yes he Would.

    To me an agreement between the NHA – Trainers – Owners and Other operators , needs to be called for , although the operators love it when a pool is split into 10 winners and can show how great they are , I would rather keep it to myself and be the only winner. – Maybe I am just selfish, but I am a Owner Punter and need to pay my bills.

    When one goes to a casino and you put your last R 10.00 on Number 5 and nobody Follows- Meaning you are the only person on number five – The wheel spins and lands on Five , Have you ever worried about the rest of the losing chips on the table around you ? We all see the disappointment on their faces and hear the swearing and cursing at the so called crook croupier .

    Yet I have never Worried when cashing in – I have my rent money – Thank God.

    Horse Racing is a Competitive sport and we all race and punt to Win.

    We do not race to Share pools and Dead heat in races.
    All owners want to “Win” because nobody remembers the second horse in a race.

    The Merit Rating System was introduced because one of the objects was to make it more exciting for the public. So in favor of the operators – If all things are fair the horses are to be weighted so that they should finish in a straight line. – Thus creating the excitement and drawing crowds to the race course.

    Now things have changed with restrictions to fields etc, Course, Surface Changes . So a very difficult solution to find a winner for all .

    In My opinion it is about education and up to the individual to understand the rules of the game.

    I would never go and play Poker in a Casino – as I have no idea about the game.
    I would not be able to tell if I had a winning hand – if you gave me one.

    So I say leave it to the Bloomberg’ s of the world and operators to sort out.

    In the mean time I am going to try find the “weak” spot at the Vaal today as there are three handicap races that look competitive so lots of homework and calculations to find that winner or Banker so I can Pay my Rent.

    1. Editor says:

      All bloggers welcome Warren!

  2. Warren says:

    Only Playing

  3. Basil Nelson says:

    Warren’s paragraph regarding the introduction of the MR system refers. I note that one of the objectives was to make it exciting for the “public”. It certainly doesn’t make it exciting for the “punters” especially the small ones as the straight line finish concept makes their lives difficult , not only in punting but in the exotics as well. The MR system is , in my opinion, designed to create bigger pools as a result of the complexities that the system creates.
    With reference to drawing crowds to the race course , I must be attending different race meetings to him as large crowds are only evident on big race days when most of the crowd are not normal race goers. The crowds at normal meetings were much larger 30 years ago but admittedly casinos did not exist and punters could follow horses they fancied prior to being handicapped out of their racing program as seen so often today.
    With reference to Bela Bela and Nightingale , it depends upon the type race they compete in. I prefer looking at previous form and weights regardless of MR before considering the allotted MR.
    The problems that the the MR system creates are more noticeable in lower races (don’t win too many races as 2 year olds) but everyone has problems with black type runners who have the ability to sometimes defy MR and weight discrepancies.

  4. Warren says:

    Dear Basil

    I agree with what you are saying –

    I do not agree and I am not a fan of the MR System –

    I think I may have written it in bad context , thus the confusion.

    One of the objects of the change was to make it fairer for all horses in Handicap Races – Fact

    The second Part about attracting crowds to the race course as they were dwindling and there was a TV in every tote. ( Once Again The Operator ) –
    was if there was an 18 horse field and they ran 2000 m at Turfontein and there was 3 Lengths between 1st and 18th at the finish – that the Operators believed That it made for good exciting racing and get your Adrenalin up and you would be so unlucky that you did not win you would be back next week.

    Much like we all know the chances of winning the lotto are in the Zillions , Only if I had ….. I would have won. Let me go buy another ticket.

    It all depends on which side of the fence you are , this is why this topic and the answer is very difficult to find.

  5. alex says:

    I see we are starting to move back to the race figure system. ( positive for owners, but not punters)

    Any decent student of form loves the true merit ratings published by the handicappers (we then adjust for our personal view).

    So, for example there is a top three year old who has a merit rating of say 104,

    Try to keep it as low as possible for the July ( or other big race) , so avoid running in a top three year old race which may increase the rating

    But any decent punter will know the true merit rating is probably 110.or more.

  6. pmb says:

    The added complication of limiting penalties and not having a true MR is definitely going to be causing punter unhappiness . I can completely agree with the issues that made the implementation seem reasonable though.

    The sporting posts long running AR- MR columns are looking pretty good right now.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks pmb

    2. Basil Nelson says:

      I want to throw a spanner in the works. What if Bela Bela under performed to her true MR as suggested by the difficult passage that she experienced in the race. What , in that scenario, would Nightingale’s true MR be?
      Horses are not robots and that is what makes racing more intriguing and a test to one’s intelligence. Definitely more scientific than playing the lottery.

    3. Warren says:

      PMB – Looking very good.

      Advice to everyone – go buy a sporting post.

      Learn to read and understand AR-MR race for Race and then take it from there . You will never go wrong.

      1. Editor says:

        Comment of the week 🙂

  7. Ian Jayes says:

    The MR system was introduced to correct the unfairness of the Race-figure system that favoured the better horses at the expense of the others.
    In South Africa we do not seem to understand that WFA, ‘Classics’ and ‘Conditions’ racing is for ‘classic’ or top horses and ‘handicapping’ is for ‘handicappers’ and ‘class’ is the criterion and proper programming the answer.
    Trainers do not seem to understand that when they throw their horses into races where they do not belong on class, they are in fact handicapping their horses themselves.
    MR requires the handicappers to make up ‘long handicaps’ which they in turn divide into three or more handicap races, hence ‘Divided’ races.
    Horses have to be allocated weight according to how they ran against other horses and interfering with this, distorts the long handicap or Merit-Ratings.
    By the same token, the introduction of ‘benchmarks’ has also distorted the ‘handicap’ as it causes more and more horses to compete at a disadvantage. A weight range of only 8 Kilograms (60 to 52 Kilograms) further aggravates the problem.
    Before the introduction of the MR system the Chief Handicapper of the United Kingdom, Geoffrey Gibbs, was brought out to look at the Race-Figure system and he said that we were then racing at least 75% of our horses at a disadvantage.
    We seem to be getting back to that situation again. To think that people are actually being paid to bring us there is mind-boggling to say the least.
    The handicappers were placed under the auspices of the National Horseracing Authority so that they could not be influenced by the operators and other vested interests, so how the system has been allowed to be corrupted the way it has been, is nothing short of a disgrace.

      1. Seafarer says:

        Well Said

        The handicappers were placed under the auspices of the National Horseracing Authority so that they could not be influenced by the operators and other vested interests, so how the system has been allowed to be corrupted the way it has been, is nothing short of a disgrace.

        So the answer is Let the NHA do their job properly – Without trying to please the Operators certain Owners and trainers and lets go back to basics .

        There should be no fairness in Horse Racing – Champions are Champions – We are applauding meritocracy and trying to please everyone does not work. Hard work works .

        So up to the NHA to get their house be the police leg of the industry and stop being influenced by others and Good luck to the Winners .

        Get proper people to programme the race days not in favour of the operators and you will also see a big difference . This responsibility should solely as a part of the NHA responsibilities and the operators should just live with the programme and have a race card that caters for all.

        Far to much interference Operators – Trainers – RA and all the programme committees.

  8. Blue Peter says:

    I thought this is what we wanted. The three year old classic winners should get MR 99. Plus 7 points for graded entries . EG Rocket ball in the Vodacom. The owners still benefit under the handicaps @ 99 and can compete at Graded level in open company. Jollify back in the day is an example. Dambuster being another. Please bring back the A Div Handicaps and a few events for AGED horses. ie 6 years plus.

  9. Michael Jacobs says:

    just a stupid question, aren’t too many horses being handicapped out of winning again after winning their maidens by getting too high a merit rating? So maybe these changes are good for horse racing?

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