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Stipes Asking The Right Questions

Trainer Brett Webber explains 100-1 shot

In a sequel to 100-1 shot Rabiya The Rebel’s runaway win in the seventh race at Turffontein on Thursday evening, it is pleasing to note that the Stipes are keeping their eye on the ball.

Our often maligned National Horseracing Authority come in for plenty of flak but when credit’s due, it’s due.

We saw on Saturday that the experienced Turffontein Judge was pulled up by the Stipes who picked up an error in a placing decision made by him.

Read more here

And now the days of simply accepting a trainer’s comments about an apparently improved performance and issuing their standard warning about in-and-out running may have come to an end.

Take the case of Rabia The Rebel who arrived on Thursday evening paying R83.80 for a win and R20.80 a place.

An addendum to Saturday’s Turffontein Stipes Report notes the following:

RABIA THE REBEL (C Storey), the winner (Turffontein 7th on 17 January 2019), was selected for the taking of specimens for analysis.  Trainer B Webber advised. (MduP).

When questioned regarding the improved performance of Rabia The Rebel, trainer B Webber explained to the Board that this filly had dropped significantly in class after running in a high merit rated handicap and two assessment plates.

National Horseracing AuthorityThe NHA’s Handicapping Panel have confirmed trainer Webber’s comments in relation to the improved performance of Rabia The Rebel, as she had run way above her ratings in her last three runs.

Rabia The Rebel finished 7,50 lengths back in an MR 84 Handicap at Turffontein on 17 November last year – then ran in two Assessment Plates – finishing 8,40 lengths behind Cashel at the Vaal and then 11,90 lengths to Gottalottaluv over 2000m at Turffontein on 29 December.

At 100-1, she may have slipped in under the radar on Thursday  – in hindsight. But it’s good to see more rationale and detail in the reports explaining the performance.

Can there ever be enough transparency and information?

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18 comments on “Stipes Asking The Right Questions

  1. Chris Swart says:

    Perhaps the finger pointing at the trainer should have three pointing at themselves
    Owning handicappers is for mugs.
    A six year old Noordhoek Flyer homebred that won recently and earned over half a million in doing so is a loss maker
    It took eight unproductive runs to get near his mark When you consider the norm is a run a month, to recover costs you’d need three wins per annum to cover expenses.
    He will run another loss this season and is to win another seven races to even the balance

    The alternative is the gamble which means horses aren’t sent out trying and being lined up to recoup costs and get back into the black.

    Three PE horses were raised 7 pounds plus for an apprentice winning to marks they had never been competitive on.
    Two of these horses are over seven. I can not see how at this age they’ve improved (when you consider they raced 8lb lighter and went up 15lb for that sin) to levels one of them couldn’t get near the placings with.

    When you consider the achievements of Captain Lars winning 11 races at age 9 in the UK in a season, you have to agree the system is flawed. I am aware of sellers (which were never embraced when tried)

    The bottom line is low grade handicaps are dangerous because they’re fraught with inaccuracies and significant improvement from the overrated dropping to marks that are more feasible.
    Racing and ownership can’t afford this luxury and Joe Average Punter that will never fathom the weights and ratings definitely can’t.

  2. Cleo says:

    Ok…but on the Gottalottaluv run she was beaten by Musette by 6.8 lengths and was worse off at the weights. She proceeded to beat Musette by almost 11 lengths in this victory. Does that make sense?

  3. Michael Jacobs says:

    As most stakeholders have said, the MR system is bad for racing, and we should return to the race figure system. The race figure system was fair and easy to understand. A punter then had to factor in how a horsec would perform.

    The racing offer should return to mainly set weights races. Maidens are level weights, thus a fair opportunity for all. Novice- one time winners at level weights, fair opportunity for all. Graduation- 2 time winners- with 2 time winners getting a penalty, eg 60kgs for 2 time winners and 57kgs for 1 time winners. Lastly progress plates-3 time winners- with 60kgs for 3 time winners, 57.5kg for 2 time winners and 55kgs for 1 time winners. Thereafter the handicap class can start- A, B, C handicaps. That gives good horses a chance to win at least 3 races before getting into handicaps. That was the system before and SA racing was successful. It also allows punters to rate the performance of horses and not be misled by handicappers. Owners and trainers will be satisfied as their horses aren’t being penalised out of racing.

    Racing is on a downward spiral in SA and authorities will have to rethink the offer being made to the stakeholders- Owners, trainers and punters.

  4. Elaine says:

    Makes sense

  5. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Michael how do you perceive this to be achieved – and i am definitely not saying you are wrong – i just dont think it can be achieved.

    Can someone please refresh my memory how handicapping worked in those days – did some horses not get to the handicapping phase of racing. I remember some “ballies” in the totes saying they dreamt of owning a good handicapper – now you dont want a handicapper at all.

    1. karel says:

      I found this, from a decade ago, must have been a submission I made to some body – as usual without any point.

  6. Ian Jayes says:

    The “race-figure” system was not handicapping and in the words of Mr Gibb, the Senior Handicapper in England,,who was consulted by the then Jockey Club: “You are racing 80% of your horses at a disadvantage. It is the worst system I have seen anywhere in the world”. Unfortunately the Merit-Rating system which was introduced to replace it, has been adulterated through only having a weight-range of 8 kilograms and the introduction of Benchmarks. All handicaps should be “divided” handicaps where the handicappers compile a “long” handicap and split it into two, three or four races depending on the horses nominated. A weight-range of at least 10 kilograms is also needed. Trainers should also distinguish between “class” horses and “handicappers” and put them in the races where they belong. The programme should also adequately cater for both types of horses.

  7. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    ok thanks karel that has jogged my memory a bit.

    perhaps we need a dramatic stakes adjustment – conditions races up 50%, merit rated races less 50%, with an equal spread of races and no handicap handcuffs either up or down – it will be easy to find horses being manipulated and then suspend those horses

    let the economics sort the horse population out

  8. Niran says:

    The stipes conclude that rabia the rebel ran above her rating in assesment plates ,why then wasnt her ratings adjusted accordingly ? After all the assesment plate is a race formulated to decipeher a horses true ability ????.

  9. PL.NEL says:

    Yup, owners and punters have been separated by stakes and the regulators. Stakes are not attractive, in fact stats are shocking. Regulators have to make this bad economics race fair,, lol, in your dreams. Owners and small to medium trainers are at a massive disadvantage because stakes do not cover 92% of horses sold, and winning status only covers that much enthusiasm. They also do not have proper support of stipes when jockeys ride poorly or do not follow instructions. The trainer whilst planning a program for a horse is overridden by jockeys doing as they please, no wonder consistency for the handicapper is mucked. We need stronger stipes.

  10. Gavin Langeveldt says:

    That’s racing.
    Plus we must always take note that the horse isn’t aware of the tote win and place betting.
    Rabia the rebel didn’t read the script..

  11. Graham Martin says:

    What did Mr Gibb, senior handicapper in the U.K. have to do with S.A. horse racing might I ask. For starters horse racing in S.A. is in the southern hemisphere and the race figure system was used in this country for over a hundred years. There was nothing wrong with it. Ever since the W.F.A. Merit rating was introduced into this country horse racing has gone downwards!

  12. Ian Jayes says:

    To answer Graham Martin, Mr Gibb was brought out by the then Jockey Club to review and comment on the “Race-Figure” system then in use. He told us exactly what he thought about it. I must correct you, there was nothing right with it and we did not have race-figures for over a hundred years. The race-figure system was introduced from about the l970s to when we changed to Merit-Rating. . Before race-figures were introduced we used to have proper handicapping with a top-weight of 10-10 (68 Kgs) or more and a bottom-weight of 7-0 (45 Kgs). When you adulterate a perfectly good system, you must not cry about the consequences and merit-rating has been badly adulterated..

  13. Graham Martin says:


  14. Graham Martin says:

    Can you enlighten me on the ” ADULTERATED” part! This could help understand what you mean.

    1. karel says:

      adulterated means ‘messed up’ – and I have tempered my language.

    2. karel says:

      To make it clearer, this is from the NHA website.

      Amendments to the Handicapping Guidelines – APRIL 2016
      1. The rating of a 2 year old after winning a maiden race be capped at a maximum rating of a nett MR74 from 1 April to 31 July.
      2. A 3 y.o. maiden winner in a major centre cannot have a MR of less than a nett 64 for colts and geldings and nett 59 for fillies, provided that the maiden win takes place within the first 5 starts. Where a 3 y.o. takes longer than this to win its first race, the Handicappers should use their discretion. (Amended 26/9/2016)
      3. Currently, a 3 y.o. maiden winner cannot have a nett rating of more than a nett 78 in a major centre, nett 73 in Port Elizabeth, nett 60 in Kimberley and nett 58 in Zimbabwe. The discretion to vary this in exceptional circumstances no longer applies.
      4. Currently, a 4 y.o. and older maiden winner must be capped at a nett MR of 70 in a major centre, 65 in PE, 60 in Kimberley and 58 in Zimbabwe. The discretion to vary this in exceptional circumstances no longer applies.
      5. The winner of a handicap Listed race is capped at an 8 point penalty (excluding under sufferance and overweight).
      6. The second placed horse in a minor Handicap and Listed race cannot receive more than a 4 point penalty. (excluding under sufferance and overweight).
      7. The line horse should be no further back than 3rd place in all minor Handicap and Listed races.
      8. The line-horse shall be no further back than the 4th placed horse in all Grade 2 and Grade 3 races.
      9. The winner and placed horses in a Grade 2 or Grade 3 race is capped at a 10 point penalty for the winner, 5 points for 2nd place and 3 points for 3rd place.
      10. The line-horse shall be no further back than 5th place in all Grade 1 events.
      11. Where a horse (especially an older horse) runs out of sync to its normal profile, the Handicappers should rather err on the side of caution and impose half the normal penalty and let the said horse prove the higher rating at its subsequent start.
      12. In all Grade 1 Handicap races, the top weight allocated shall not be more than 60kgs with an 8 kg spread from top to bottom at final acceptance.
      In Grade 2 Handicap events the top weight shall not be allocated more than 62kgs, Grade 3 Handicap events 64kgs and Listed Handicap Races 66kgs. In all Graded and Listed races the bottom weight shall be 52kgs at final acceptance.
      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.
      The Handicappers could reduce the merit rating a little more slowly where good cause is shown.

      You’ll find earlier releases of this on the NHA website.
      All approved by the NHA Board.
      Must be good, then.

  15. Graham Martin says:

    Thanks Karel that explains everything!

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