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Merit Rating Analysis – LQP Day Gr1’s

How the handicappers saw it

In an innovative move, the National Horseracing Authority of South Africa have published a report on Saturday’s Gr1 feature merit rating analysis.

L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winner Do It Again (Pic – Chase Liebenberg Photography)

L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (WFA) Grade 1 – Race 7

Following a comprehensive discussion between the NHA Handicapping panel consisting of Messrs Lennon Maharaj, Matthew Lips and Vee Moodley, DO IT AGAIN has seen his Merit Rating increased from 120 to 125, in the wake of his victory in an exceptional renewal of the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate at Kenilworth on Saturday.

The 2018 Vodacom Durban July winner showed both his versatility and his class when collaring sole three-year-old SOQRAT in the shadows of the post to land what was widely billed as one of the highest average MR Group 1 and the Handicappers are perfectly satisfied that the four-year-old is worthy of his new status as the highest rated horse in South Africa.

The Handicappers assessed the Queen’s Plate on the basis that LEGAL EAGLE and UNDERCOVER AGENT confirmed exactly their form out of the Green Point Stakes, and that UNDERCOVER AGENT and SNOWDANCE almost exactly replicated their form out of the Rising Sun Gold Challenge which was run at Greyville last June.

There is every reason to believe that DO IT AGAIN could have improved five pounds on what he showed when beaten a short head by LEGAL EAGLE in the four-way photo finish to the Green Point Stakes.  DO IT AGAIN was making his seasonal debut on that occasion, having not raced since winning the Vodacom Durban July, whereas all three of those around him had run (and won) at least once in the current season. There seems no doubt that DO IT AGAIN stepped up on his Green Point Stakes performance to win the Queen’s Plate against arguably the best field of milers assembled for a race in South Africa in many years.

As a result of the Queen’s Plate, SOQRAT’s rating has been increased to 124.  The Cape Guineas winner came into the Queen’s Plate previously unbeaten from two starts over 1600m – both of them at Grade 1 level. The runner-up out of the Cape Guineas, TWIST OF FATE, easily won the Grade 3 BMW Politician Stakes on Queen’s Plate day to also underline the strength of the Guineas form.  SOQRAT is a progressive three-year-old who looks full value for his 124 rating after only losing the Queen’s Plate in the dying strides.

RAINBOW BRIDGE also appears to have stepped up considerably on his Green Point Stakes run and his rating has been increased to 119.  In the Queen’s Plate he met DO IT AGAIN, LEGAL EAGLE and UNDERCOVER AGENT on 2 kgs worse terms than in the Green Point, yet was able to reverse form with two of them easily.  There is every reason to believe that RAINBOW BRIDGE performed better in the Queen’s Plate than in the Green Point, where he ran to 116 despite appearing unsuited to the slow early pace and generally not having a great deal go his way.  A mark of 119 for him looks perfectly reasonable and confirms his place as a progressive and highly capable emerging force on the scene.

Other changes following from the Queen’s Plate are LEGAL EAGLE dropping from 123 to 121, HAT PUNTANO drops from 112 to 109, and INFAMOUS FOX’S rating has been cut from 103 to 101.  These drops are more indicative of the two horses’ deteriorating form in recent starts and are not directly linked to their performances in the Queen’s Plate, where HAT PUNTANO was the subject of a veterinary check after his Jockey reported that he felt something amiss with the Argentine-bred import.

Cartier Paddock Stakes (WFA) (Grade 1) – Race 6

There were fewer significant rating changes following the day’s other Grade 1 race, the Cartier Paddock Stakes for fillies and mares over 1800m.

The Handicappers feel confident that the highly consistent 3rd placed CASCAPEDIA is the correct line horse for the race and accordingly have rated the race to a level of 118.  However, the winner OH SUSANNA’S rating remains unchanged on 121.  Runner-up LADY IN BLACK’S rating has been upped from 108 to 117, while 4th placed FRESNAYE goes up from 104 to 110 and 5th placed SECOND REQUEST has seen her rating raised from 101 to 104.  SECRET REQUEST ran to a rating of 108 and was effectively given a half way increase.

The rating of the runners that were reduced were HASHTAGYOLO (from 104 to 101) and ELUSIVE HEART, who drops to 100 from 103. The balance of the field remains unchanged.

  • Press release issued by NHA on 7 January 2019

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25 comments on “Merit Rating Analysis – LQP Day Gr1’s

  1. Jay August says:

    I was wondering how they could rate this so highly and there you have it. They have taken two slow run races, versus one in which the pace may have been equally false (too fast and compromised some runners) and concluded that the 4-6th horses have run to form and that therefore the top 3 are better by 5,6 and 9 points. The latter part tells you something is not right but is typical of handicappers who use line horses to make an assessment. When is the line horse theory ever going to be put to death?

  2. Basil says:

    Talk about trying to justify a system that doesn’t affect horses of the Queen’s Plate calibre. Handicaps should be made historical and forgotten about and MR’s become purely academical for those who interested in them.

  3. pmb says:

    There will always be discrepancy and opinion. I think the error is often there is the desire to increase ratings after a race rather than evaluate on merit which is a faulty premise if you want realism. In this race I would have taken the winner as the line horse and the ratings would all have looked more realistic.

  4. karel says:

    If only we’d had sectional timing, then we could have a sensible debate about what happened.
    I’ve long given up about that ever coming to fruition.
    Larry has a lot to account for.


    How right you are Karel.

    I remember you talking about it in the late 80’s, in those grey pamphlets you published, when called Racing Record.

    What get’s my goat is that we constantly have to hear about the ‘business this’, ‘business that’ of the SA racing products.

    The owners of the racing pictures must have very limited business acumen, as sectional timing, on the picture, would increase the value of their revenue exponentially to the foreign racing markets.

    Never mind it serving as a handicapping clinic for our so-called handicappers.

  6. Graham Martin says:

    I fully agree with Jay August, using the so called LINE HORSE is an absolute FARCE! It should have been done away with a long time ago! If the line horse is used to judge a horse’s merit rating then the increase or decrease in the merit rating should be applicable ONLY to the horses that participated in that particular race! The MERIT RATING system in it’s current form has destroyed many a horse’s career! WE NEED CHANGE! And we need it NOW!

  7. Jay August says:

    Technology makes it somewhat possible to construct sectional timing from the video, by reviewing each frame but with one limitation; the posts only become visible from the 800m pole. So the sections I have are as follows;

    First 800m = 47.70s
    Next 400m = 24.60s (1200m in 72.30s)
    Last 400m = 24.90s (first 200m of this in 12.17 and last 200m in 12.73s)
    Last 800m = 49.50s
    Final time = 97.10s (I am out by 0.09s with the official timer). Splits = 1200m in 72.30s, 1400m in 84.47s.

    The Green Point by contrast was completely different as follows;

    First 800m = 53.10s
    Next 400m = 23.90s 1200m in 75.12s)
    Last 400m = 21.91s (first 200m of this in 11.58s and last 200m in 10.33s)
    Last 800m = 45.81s
    Final time = 98.92s (I am out 0.01s with the official timing). Splits = 1200m in 75.12s, 1400m in 87.70s)

    Both these races are vastly different races and neither in my opinion has been run efficiently, with the Queens Plate too fast early on and the exact opposite in the Green Point.

  8. Jay August says:

    Editor please update the sectionals as follows – had an error on my spreadsheet.

    First 800m = 47.79s
    Next 400m = 24.60s (1200m in 72.30s)
    Last 400m = 24.90s (first 200m of this in 12.17 and last 200m in 12.73s)
    Last 800m = 49.50s
    Final time = 97.10s (I am out by 0.09s with the official timer). Splits = 1200m in 72.30s, 1400m in 84.47s.

    The Green Point by contrast was completely different as follows;

    First 800m = 51.22s
    Next 400m = 23.90s 1200m in 75.12s)
    Last 400m = 23.80s (first 200m of this in 11.58s and last 200m in 12.22s)
    Last 800m = 47.70s
    Final time = 98.92s (I am out 0.01s with the official timing). Splits = 1200m in 75.12s, 1400m in 86.70s)

  9. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Charles Faul has been equivocal in his dismissal of sectional timing in favour of barrier trials – has anyone noticed how these have deteriorated into half pace workouts.

    Larry answers to no one, history will prove this

  10. Sir Steve says:

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. This move is a step in the right direction regardless of whether you agree with the methodology. Vee please force your handicappers to publish the line horse utilised in every race you handicap. If nothing else, it will save students time working out which horse was used.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi Sir Steve

      Mr Vee Moodley has responded to your suggestion:

      Thanks for the comment / suggestion. We shall work on a “methodology” to highlight the “Line/Key” horse/s that are used to rate a race. There would have to be some minor software amendments done as per our previous discussions. The request is positive and appreciated.

  11. Jay August says:

    Roderick, I’ve yet to see a detailed explanation from Charles Faull on why he thinks barrier trials are so predictive and why he believes sectionals are not. Every half decent handicapper the world over uses or attempts to use sectionals so Charles must be an outlier on this matter. Can you point me to a proper explanation of what it is he has against them?

    1. karel says:

      I can hardly imagine Charles is against sectional timing, as he was instrumental in introducing it in about 1998 when he was on the board of the SA Turf Club.
      I still have a bit of a database of sectional times from that (Jet Master) era.
      Jet Master’s splits for the 1999 QP: 38.45 – 12.67 – 12.95 – 11.97 – 11.70 – 12.48 (won in 100.22s)
      Jet Master’s splits for the 2000 QP: 37.37 – 12.15 – 11.85 – 11.68 – 11.82 – 12.85 (won in 97.92s)
      Jet Master then ran 3 weeks later in the Cape Flying:12.85 – 11.17 – 11.23 – 11.39 (won in 59.24s)

      Almost twenty years ago! How the mighty administrators have fallen….

  12. Jay August says:

    Karel, I was not in the country at that point. Why did they stop sectionals and what technology were they using at the time?

    1. karel says:

      They stopped because the equipment misbehaved – apparently electronics affected or were affected by outside elements. Or maybe it just broke. Remember this was 1998, two years before Y2K 🙂

  13. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    When the debacle that we call barrier trails were introduced I asked Robyn to ask Charles what was better; sectional timing or barrier trials? I asked as I respect his opinion, i was somewhat surprised when the answer was something like barrier trials first and sectional timing a distant second.

    Search the comments section it will be there somewhere.

    To be fair to Charles he has no say in how these trots are being managed, but there is no way that the trials being operated in the manner they are now can be more beneficial than sectional timing. And a caveat – only if sectional timing is implemented correctly too.

  14. Jay August says:

    Roderick I’ve seen that thread but it is an off-the-cuff type of comment so not instructive at all. No matter though as I guess it was just a response to a question and a translation of the answer so merely interesting rather than insightful.

    Barrier trials are seemingly just a very neat way for the racing clubs to offset the cost of “something” to the owners and trainers. If anybody is seriously looking at BTs in assessing form then please enlighten me as I do not even bother with them. They make as much sense to me as trainers comments, another red herring for punters who lack confidence in their own judgement.

    Even if BTs were better managed, and I am unsure what that means, I still don’t see how they stimulate an actual race. Only racing competition shows what any horse is capable of and only sectionals put the performance into perspective.

  15. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Jay I don believe its off the cuff, it was a very clear and definite answer. Barrier trials are streets ahead as a form tool in comparison to sectional timing in his opinion.

    The racing pundits in KZN refer to the barrier trials as a standard, and it may well be that they are compelled to by their employer. James Goodman refers to them all the time in his podcasts, and in earlier times triallists even made it on the legendary 3 to follow.

    The times have steadily deteriorated, and have become an even bigger farce.

  16. Jay August says:

    Roderick we could probably discuss this all day without any resolution. Until someone does a proper statistical analysis we will all be guessing on whether BTs have anything close to a predictive capability for subsequent racing performance, and whether they are more predictive than say MRs, odds or a multitude of other factors less costly to produce. I doubt anybody has ever done anything close to that or ever will. In the meantime they are the suit at an interview; the body is neatly clothed but the substance below is unclear.

  17. Rian says:

    Never worried about sectionals as weight horses carry, draws , time per race was important , alumites ,geldings etc etc etc
    As i got older fractional betting came along and you just added horses willy nilly
    BOOKMAKERS must love this circus and line horse farce
    What weight did Jet Master carry in the Sprint ?????

    1. karel says:

      Cape Flying Ch’ship – weight for age – 58kg

  18. Rod Mattheyse says:

    I can say with a major degree of certainty that’s odds are no indicator of a horses chance, it is however some other person or collectives opinion of a horses chance, and in many instances this is artificially manipulated to scoop the dros.

  19. alan says:

    are the times correct for 800 mts. the great harry hotspur just broke 47 secs at kenilworth over 800m in a gallop. mr puller can confirm. i dont think there are too many around today that can run that.

  20. Jay August says:

    alan, they are as accurate as I can get given that I am not viewing the poles in a straight line but I am sure they are within 0.10s in all cases. If HH had done a 47s 800m then he would have been over 5 lengths clear of the pacesetter in the first 800m sectional in the Queens Plate. I assume he was timed from a standing start as any sectional in a race after the first sectional is from a running start so not absolutely comparable.

    Good horses at Grade 1 level should be easily capable of sub 48s 800m in most races below 2400m.
    Look at the splits that Karel produced for Jet Master in the Flying St. His first 800m is in 46.64s, the final 800m in 46.39s, the latter of course from a running start. Winx produced a sub 44s final 800m in the Turnball St in October last year.

    I am not aware that there are run-ups in SA when timing races so my splits are from the gate opening. In the US run-ups (timing from a point after the barrier) can be anything from the first 5-15m.. A run-up can easily shave 0.3-0.9s off a race time.

  21. Ian Jayes says:

    One cannot rate horses correctly if you do not have a record of how the different races were run. Likewise one cannot adjudicate reversals of form without the same. Pace is the key.

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