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Derby Day – Handicapper’s Ratings Report

Return Flight on 106

The National Horseracing Authority have published a report of their handicapping ratings update after Saturday’s Derby Day meeting at Turffontein.

National Horseracing Authority

  • SA Derby (Grade 1)

After a thorough assessment and discussion between the NHA Handicappers, SAMURAI WARRIOR was given a merit rating of 105 following his front running victory under a masterful ride from Jockey Piere Strydom in the SA Derby (Grade 1) at Turffontein on Saturday 30 March 2019 over 2450m. Ironically he was the only participant in the race that had contested over this aptitude twice before and was also placed in the listed event.  The Handicappers are satisfied that the new rating is a fair reflection of SAMURAI WARRIOR’S performance and the race level is still 10 MR points below the international threshold for a Grade 1 race.

In analysing what appeared to be a race run at a slow pace, the handicappers were of the opinion that third placed MARCHINGONTOGETHER would not have run worse by finishing third at Grade 1 level than when he won a non-black type Feature at Scottsville in February.  Accordingly, it was this performance by MARCHINGONTOGETHER that was used as the line to rate the SA Derby.

This equates to MARCHINGONTOGETHER running to a rating of 102 in the Derby, and this is the rating that has been allocated to him.  Derby runner-up ZILLZAAL had his rating dropped from 106 to 105, thus making him equal to the winner.

,Fourth placed ATYAAB’S rating remains unchanged on the 105 he was made after he won the Cape Derby two starts back.  As a recent Grade 1 winner who may not have been entirely suited to the pace at which the SA Derby was run, it is believed that it would be premature to drop his mark for now.

In other changes, SENOR LIZARD was raised from 85 to 88, ARLINGTONS REVENGE goes up from 80 to 84, MASTER MAGIC was raised from 80 to 84, ZANAKI goes up from 78 to 83, and LAST OF THE LEGEND was upped from 78 to 81.  These horses finished from 5th place to 9th, and in doing this it is ensured that these five horses would meet one another on the correct weight terms in a handicap race.  This satisfies the definition of a handicap.  The only other change was OWLINTHETREE, whose rating was cut from 99 to 91.

  • H F Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes (Grade 1)

SOQRAT remains unchanged on a rating of 124 after his win in the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m.  This performance confirms SOQRAT’S status as the  best three-year-old colt over 1600m presently in training, but it was felt that he by no means needed to improve on his 124 rating to win this race.   It was fourth placed TILBURY FORT who was used the line horse to rate this race.

Soqrat wins well (Pic – JC Photos)

The strength of the three-year-old crop was greatly underlined in the Horse Chestnut Stakes, with CIRILLO beaten less than one length into second and finishing well ahead of the older horses.  This looks to be an outstanding crop of three-year-old males, and in the wake of this performance CIRILLO’S rating has been upped from 111 to 114.

The Handicappers took into consideration that UNAGI is a 5 year old that has not been able to win for almost 2 years and only adjusted him to 106 and not the 110 he achieved. In other changes, CASCAPEDIA was dropped from 110 to 109, LEGAL EAGLE had his rating cut from 120 to 118, AL DANZA drops to 104 from 106, and WILL PAYS is down from 114 to 112.

  • Wilgerbosdrift S A Oaks (Grade 2)

RETURN FLIGHT was given a new rating of 106 after she comfortably won the Grade 2 Wilgerbosdrift  SA Oaks over 2450m under another extremely well-judged ride from Piere Strydom.  This represents a slight increase of one pound on the 105 rating she was given after she won the Grade 1 SA Fillies Classic.

in rating the Oaks, it was runner-up BLOSSOM who was used as the line horse and accordingly her rating remains unchanged on 103.  Third placed SEVILLE ORANGE was raised from 91 to 99, while fourth placed BIZE was upped from 79 to 97.  These two fillies were rated relative to fifth placed CHITENGO, so that the three would meet one another on the correct terms in a handicap race.  In other changes, SECOND REQUEST was dropped from 104 to 99, while PRETTY BORDER goes up from 72 to 80 in order that she is not rated below last placed FARIHA, who remains unchanged on 80.

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28 comments on “Derby Day – Handicapper’s Ratings Report

  1. hilton witz says:

    Would be nice to know what the fractions were in soqrats race as the first 2 were there from start to finish and soqrat looked a reluctant leader as his stablemate who looked the likely pacemaker blew the start…Very unfair to raise unagi rating imo

  2. Steve Reid says:

    These merit rating workings have more holes in them than Swiss cheese. I have long maintained that a system where the factors in determining a line horse are sometimes so speculative, makes the entire system questionable.

    Let’s take the Derby as an example. In my opinion the wrong line horse was chosen. Marchingontogether was chosen as the line horse. This horse comes from KZN, has only raced in KZN, and his biggest race was in a listed race against KZN horses over a distance 500m shorter than the distance that was run on Saturday. Under the circumstances he ran a great race but he wasn’t the right horse to use in my opinion. The obvious line horse form wise was Atyaab, who beat the best the Cape could offer in their Derby. The horse finished closer to the winner in the Derby than the line horses used in both the Oaks and the Horse Chestnut. The problem with using Atyaab is, this would further expose the poor quality of the Cape Derby and the subsequent overrating of the horse. A successful objection against the MR ratings has already occurred. The Derby furthermore proves Messrs Bloomberg et al correct in their summation that the drop in MR achieved after the successful objection was insufficient, To blame the pace for Atyaab’s run is pure speculation and a clear cop out to justify the foolishness of the Cape Derby ratings, those ratings are now as exposed as the Emperors new clothes. Like the fable, the handicappers do not acknowledge what is clearly presented to them. Should Atyaab have been declared the line horse with his elevated MR, we would have had some very interesting new ratings. This is the real reason he was not declared the line horse. They know their rating is false, but like all dictators, they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that a mistake has been made. This is the major problem with this system – if you choose the incorrect line horse, or if the line horse is incorrectly rated, then the system is exposed.

    I’m not even going to comment about adjusting the ratings of horses who finish downfield in feature races after owners pay a fortune to have a runner. For Arlingtons Revenge and Master Magic who both finished over 8 lengths behind the winner, and out of the money, to be penalised is pure folly regardless of the mathematics of the system. Those poor owners who paid R23000 for the “privilege”of having a runner, they get a double whammy by having to shoulder more weight in the next handicap that they contest. Both were 50/1 pre the scratching of Hawwaam, a fair indication of their chances.

    This is not an isolated case. MR is not the silver bullet they would like you all to believe.

  3. Brian says:

    What I know about this is, well, absolutely nothing.

    I am however very pleased that the report is being published and well done to all concerned.

  4. Jay August says:

    “………and the race level is still 10 MR points below the international threshold for a Grade 1 race.”

    What never get’s discussed in SA is the pattern. We simply have too many Grade 1 races and too much black type. The Cape and SA Derby’s are just a symptom of that bigger problem. Under the guise of tradition we continue to push Grade 1 status on two races that without an exceptional horse are merely Grade 3 affairs.

    I’d encourage the NHA, now that they have a virtual racing calendar, to follow the BHA lead and publish the MR performance figure for each horse in each race as well. That way there is more transparency about how they are arriving at ratings.

  5. hilton witz says:

    Have the rules changed regarding group 1 and 2 races where only the top 5 finishers are allowed to have their ratings adjusted upwards?

  6. Wayne Fouche says:

    It seems as if one has to be a Rocket Scientist these days to be able to understand the SA merit ratings.

    By the way (Jay August should be able to answer this question!!) how is it that a horse which should – if we had competent stipes – have been relegated after that “masterful ride” knocked the 3rd place horse out of the race have its merit rating increased? Just because he “won”?

  7. Jay August says:

    Wayne, stricter stipes would have been more severe on the winner and Strydom. I fully expected the stipes to disqualify the winner to third and was surprised that they were so lenient. But that in no way detracts from Strydoms’s ride up to the very last 100m. I’ve praised his ride on another website, which you may be referring to?

    Winning from the front is not easy on grass and when you see a jockey accomplish it with a horse which does not rate that way normally, you have to stand in appreciation of that fact. I doubt that the winner got a merit bump only because he won. He would have got it whether he finished first or third as there was not much between the first and third horses.

    It would be odd in a Graded race for three-year-old’s if some of them were not making new high MR’s.
    Many at this time of the year are facing better competition and more efficiently paced races than they have hitherto been exposed to. Under such circumstances merit bumps for such horses are to be expected and quite normal.

    My own work in this regard shows that the better three-year-old’s will show on average a 3 half-kilo (gross not net) improvement between February and end July, as they get exposed to stiffer competition. Many regard this as weight-for-age improvement while I believe it it more correlated with better competition. For the Derby, I had 5 of the 12 runners making new high ratings.

    I’ve only given the Derby winner an 88 but I have a completely different WFA table which is less lenient on younger horses. If you factored in the WFA difference then my rating is equivalent to a ~MR100, I note that SP have awarded the winner a 93.

    I’ve long been critical of the use of a line-horse so am not going to enter that debate again. However once you start using it you have to be consistent and use it all the time. The handicappers have done that, so despite me disagreeing with their ratings, I cannot fault their consistency.

    There is no rocket science needed at all for the MR system though. It’s purely a judgement call on a line horse and then very simple maths to derive the race ratings.

  8. The Dark Duke says:

    Atyaab is clearly the horse with consistent form and at a higher level than anything else in that line-up. I agree that he is overrates and have him at a 96.

  9. hilton witz says:

    So no word from the nhra regarding this change of increasing horses ratings that have finished further back than 5th in a group 1 or 2 …this ruling was put in place in 2012 and i cannot find any change to it on the nhra website and in the nomination book for the races there is no warning given that horses that run beyond 5th in the derby or the oaks can have their ratings increased….One wonders if the connections knew about it beforehand

    1. karel says:

      The NHA website, under Handicapping Guidelines notes: Grade 1 & 2 races Upward Adjustment to first 5 finishers only.
      Like you I cannot find any subsequent amendment to this 2012 guideline.
      Maybe the handicapper meant that the horse were rated that way, but may not have their ratings adjusted to match – that happens many times.
      You’re right, it would be nice to get some official comment on this.

  10. hilton witz says:

    Just to further cloud this issue if one looks at the met top 10 finishers its clear for even stevie wonder to see that doublemint and kampala campari ran well above their ratings and maybe the editor can put the tabgold run ons for all to see as these two horses STILL HAVE THEIR SAME RATINGS …ZERO CONSISTENCY AND ZERO TRANSPARENCY SHOWN FROM THE NHRA REGARDING RULE CHANGES AND APPLICATION TO THE SYSTEM

  11. hilton witz says:

    karel the nhra website under merit ratings confirms that the horses above that ran from 6th downwards have had their ratings adjusted upwards as mentioned above by the handicaper ..What irks me also is the statement that IT ENSURES THAT THESE HORSES WOULD MEET EACH OTHER AT THE CORRECT TERMS IN A HANDICAP …if you going to apply that thought process then all these caps and limits that outsiders have brought into the merit rating system through the years and therefore bastardising it must also be done away with so it can be applied in its purest form …For example if you rated 70 and you run a short behind a horse rated 85 in a plate race then your merit rating must also increase so that when you meet next time in a handicap its all fair ..YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS ..

  12. Steve Reid says:

    The MR changes are already showing on the NHA site so this has happened.

    Karel I wouldn’t waste too much time worrying about the NHA following their own rules as they have a solid track record of doing as they want and ignorning there own guidelines. You may want to check the registrations and licensing changes in the near future, as this has always been the modus operandi to justify transgressions by changing rules after the fact.

    The 100 days are almost up and I see no discernible changes. Same old different face.

  13. The Dark Duke says:

    I have to be in agreement with both Hilton and Steve here something is very wrong. After the Met I backed Doublemint for the sole reason that the horse had run 13 points above its rating and was not going to get a penalty for that run.

    Now we see horses getting penalised when they run second last WTF!!!! Mr. Editor please this needs some urgent explanation from the NHA. As things now stand every horse that got a penalty outside the top 5 in all Gr1 and 2 races Saturday WILL WIN IF THEY APPEAL. A honest and important question. Mr Moodley do you know what you are doing sir?

  14. Anthony says:

    Ed, Jay and Wayne. In terms of what was stated above, I believe that the new rule for objections is that you can only object 1 place in front of yourself, e.g. 3rd cant object against 1st but can only object against 2nd?? I watched a race last year where the wining horse wiped out the majority of the runners but they were not allowed to object because they didn’t finish 2nd.
    Ed, what is the rule because some jockeys are now taking full advantage and lately there has been some scrambling finishes with calls for objections reverting to “no further action”…ridiculous

  15. Jay August says:

    Anthony, sounds rather odd if that is the case. I cannot see how that could be but who knows. Here however are the passages in the rules which refer to interference;


    62.2.7 ensure that he does not cause interference, bunching, intimidation and/or constitute a source of interference or danger;

    68.2.6 bumping, boring, crossing, jostling or other interference, intimidation or any other action on the part of the HORSE or its RIDER during the running of the RACE;

    69.3.1 a placed HORSE was interfered with by another placed HORSE and/or its RIDER during a RACE and the HORSE which was interfered with would, but for the interference, have finished ahead of the HORSE which caused the interference, in which event, the OBJECTION BOARD shall place the HORSE which caused the interference behind the HORSE which was interfered with or it may disqualify the HORSE which caused the interference;

    69.3.2 any HORSE in the RACE was interfered with by any other HORSE and/or its RIDER and as a result of which the chances of the HORSE interfered with were jeopardised, the OBJECTION BOARD may, if it believes that the nature of the interference warrants such action, disqualify the HORSE which caused the interference.

    Unless there is something I am missing I cannot see any reason why an objection would have failed had the stipes believed enough interference took place between first and third, and which stopped the third from placing first or second.

    If however there are new rules the NHA needs to put them up pronto on their website and delete these!

  16. Jay August says:

    Anthony, it seems that rule is one from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities which states under Category 1 interference philosophy;

    “If, in the opinion of the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body, a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with but irrespective of the incident(s) the sufferer would not have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the judge’s placings will remain unaltered.”

    Has the NHA adopted this? The wording in the online Rules of Racing appears category 2 not category 1, but I’ve done a very quick check, so may have missed it.

  17. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Seems like in my self inflicted lentin sacrificial sabbatical the horse world has gone mad. Handicappers on the loose, and Anthony’s objection rule change comment, however i can’t believe that to be the case Anthony .

  18. Pops says:

    The wording—, but for the interference, have finished ahead of the HORSE which caused the interference,–seems to suggest that the horse that was interfered with should be placed in front of the horse that caused the interference.

  19. Jay August says:

    Pop’s, I am now assuming two things;

    1) The new rule is in line with category 1 offences (see above) as described by the IFHA and has not yet been updated in the NHA rule book!

    2) If that is so then the stipes did not believe the 3rd horse would have beaten the winner and therefore the places can not be reversed, even though the 3rd may have got 2nd, but for the interference.

    In the absence of facts or an explanation one can speculate all day long………..

  20. The Dark Duke says:

    Mr. Editor I am amazed to see no response from the NHA regarding the handicapping irregularities highlighted on this thread. Have you asked for an explanation?

    1. Editor says:

      Will refer to Lennon Maharaj, Duke

  21. hilton witz says:

    The response is covered by an article on the tabgold website whereby mr vee moodley says that they are guidelines and not rules so they can deviate from them ..Now where did i hear that before GUIDELINES NOT RULES …Third world racing country bar our trainers breeders and jockeys …

  22. Pops says:

    Food for thought.In a race, horse number one wins number two runs second and number three runs third.If number 3 successfully objects against number one.should the results not now read number three winner number two second ( he does not gain a position or lose a position)and number one third? The positions of the horses involved in an upheld objection should just be swapped.
    Remember Principal Boy winning the July when he was tight against the inside rail and the two horses involved in the objection tight against the outside rail miles away from him.?

  23. Rod Mattheyse says:

    We have to be thankful they are communicating, even though the message is nothing but garbage, we’re any of the connections told prior to nominations at a huge cost that the derby or the oaks would rated purely and not in line with the guidelines. If they had there would have been 4 noms as the risk of running 10l to Hawwaam for a MR 78 and earn no money would have just been ludicrous. Mr Tarry stated that under normal conditions he would need his head read to run Last of a Legend. I would wager a bet of biblical proportions that Mr Tarry would not have run Last of a Legend had he known this! He is too astute.

    Someone remind me when last one has noticed any integrity at the NHA?

  24. Rod Mattheyse says:

    The winter series races entires are feeling the brunt of this change in policy…. 7 entries for the classic… I expect the operator to ask for a neck winding in

  25. Rod Mattheyse says:

    8 entries for the daily news 2000!!

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