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Winning Respect

"We are determined to get the system right''

South Africa’s handicappers are determined to win back their credibility and to perform their professional function without fear or favour, while protecting the sport’s integrity.

That was the broad message, together with policy changes that include a pending general upgrade of the horse population’s ratings, that emerged as the curtain came down shortly after 15h00 on Wednesday afternoon on the fourth and final, for this stage, NHA Handicapping roadshow, which was held in the boardroom of the racing regulator’s Johannesburg Headquarters at Turffontein Racecourse.

The concept of reaching out to the racing public and stakeholders, many of whom appear to have genuinely limited understanding of the science, was introduced by NHA CEO Vee Moodley, the first leg being held at Kenilworth on 27 April.

While initially greeted with the usual cynicism that tends to be the response to any new initiative in the game, the general consensus from those that have attended is that the sessions  have proven both enlightening and informative.

Wednesday’s Highveld session, hosted by Vee and his senior handicapper Lennon Maharaj, included sections of the racing media, owners, amateur handicappers, Phumelela’s Patrick Davis and Jay Harriellal, as well as a balanced spread of trainers, from the multiple past SA champion Sean Tarry to the likes of Clinton Binda, Grant Maroun, Paul Peter and Brett Warren – the latter appearing to be very concerned at perceived programming issues bedevelling the lower rated sectors of the equine population.

Moodley opened the session by explaining South African racing’s membership as a Part 1 – or ‘Gold Card member’ – of the Asian Pattern Committee. Other Part 1 members include the likes of the UAE, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.

An early pearl of interesting information to emerge was that all Group races worldwide are rated by the committee and that South African horses have parallel international merit ratings – which are utilised when they race internationally.

The panel members lobby amongst each other for consensus on ratings. In the case for example of Do It Again, rated 125 domestically, the NHA are currently arguing for his international rating to be upped from its current 118.

Moodley said that on a sperate issue, there were also moves afoot to drop the fillies sex allowance from 2,5kgs to 2kgs in 2021.

He said that South Africa’s current total Gr1 race total of 29 was on the high side in terms of our population and total races. He said that the accepted ratio was to have double the amount of Gr2 races.

He also warned that the Golden Horse Sprint and the Summer Cup were currently under review and that the operators had been informed to take suitable action to lift the quality of the fields.

The relaxation of the handicapping guidelines – or handcuffs on the handicappers – when assessing Graded, Listed or Non Black Type Feature races has already led to plenty of debate and a detailed press release outlining a revised set of guidelines – or rules of engagement – is expected by mid-July.

The restrictions in essence can make it very difficult or even impossible for the Handicappers to correctly apply NHA Rule 47.3.2, which clearly defines the meaning of a Handicap race.This has led to an imbalance in the system, with considerable congestion at the lower end of the ratings’ ‘pyramid’.

Moodley pointed out that at present, because of the ‘slippage factor’ flowing from many more horses being dropped than being increased or maintained, more than 72% of the horse population are rated 73 or below, despite the fact that many horses have shown themselves to be capable of a higher rating.

The population will thus be subjected to a 10 point increase effective 1 August to reduce the congestion in the lower ranks.

Our last increase was in March 2018 – Moodley pointing out that August was a far better time on the weight-for-age scale to implement the adjustment.

When questioned how we won’t land up in the same boat in a year from now, he added that the application of their new policy – which includes ‘zero performance’and ‘one pounders’, would go some way to alleviating the need to take this action every year.

The vocal and enthusiastic Sean Tarry welcomed the two-way flow of information, but pleaded with Moodley to ‘please just be consistent and to keep the information simple and clear’.

He questioned Gold Challenge runner-up Cirillo’s 121 rating, asking for an opinion round the room how his smart 3yo would go with the equally rated Hawwaam over a mile.

“I am a racehorse trainer. My horses, my owners and my staff are my priorities. We start early, the horses have to be fed, watered, trained, cared for – and that goes on 24/7 and 365 days a year. The last thing I want to do, or have time for, is to worry about handicapping issues,” he said.

Tarry added that he felt that the NHA had erred in simply adopting the partial relaxation of the handicapping guidelines without first informing stakeholders.

“Trainers were caught off-sides. I’m not fighting with you but this was implemented incorrectly – no matter the good intentions,” said Tarry, who called on the NHA and Phumelela to clearly and simply set out the specifics of all the guidelines and the implications in the racing programme.

Moodley conceded that the regulator should have published an advice in advance but cited the Cape Derby appeal, where the panel had deviated from the guidelines in reaching their decision, as a precedent.

Patrick Davis and Gabbi Soma confirmed that the programming committee were working together with the NHA to ensure that racing benefitted at the end of the day. Davis said 85 MR 64 Handicaps had been added to the programme.

The whole show was filmed by Andrew Bon and is expected to be broadcast on Tellytrack soon.

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36 comments on “Winning Respect

  1. beatle says:

    I would say Cape Derby needs to be reviewed first before Summer Cup

  2. Tony Mincione says:

    This is hardly a breath of fresh air, unfortunately. More like a puff of oxygen for a patient not looking so good. And in the normal “puffery” that the industry gets constantly these days.

    Mr Tarry was once again spot on. The process should be seamless, why should connections have to put up with a never ending shifting of rules and outcomes? Maybe the NHRA can be transparent enough to publish “rules” and stick to them. Which trainer will be happy to hear the head of the NHRA make comments like “relaxation of the handicapping guidelines – or handcuffs on the handicappers”? Who do you normally take handcuffs off of?

    Mr Moodley was accurate that the large crack we look at now was indeed started by the assessment of the Cape Derby. The response was to follow that precedent by “loosening” the handcuffs, but with no plan and no guidance again to follow Mr Tarry’s lead.

    Now we can only hope that someone from the handicapping office can tell the CEO, if they’re allowed, that “slippage” won’t end if you don’t have some “stoppage”. You cannot use Merit as a reward system for poor performance without a bottom.

    When the merit rating handicapping system was sold to the industry, it took over from a handicapping system that (amongst other things) tended to be cumulative upwards in general. That resulted in handicappers graduating to “A” division. Merit ratings kicked of with the idea that the entry band to the game was built on what Maiden winners would typically get in each centre, and then build from that, so again a bottom-up model. Now we work top-down, and gravity does the rest (that is winners are few and losers are many more) and we get “slippage”.

    It’s amazing to me that the whole industry seems to be howling for this to change, from breeders to punters, and the official response is that people don’t understand. It’s more like no one is listening.

  3. I attended the NHA Handicapping roadshow when it visited PE recently, and spend several hours with Mr V Moodley as he explained in detail to me the handicapping rating method.
    Because of this, I would like to thank him for his insights and am pleased to say that it was a very worthwhile meeting.


    Mr Moodley says “more than 72% of the horse population are rated 73 or below, despite the fact that many horses have shown themselves to be capable of a higher rating.”

    Oh what rot, Sir . How do you justify “despite many horses have shown themselves to be capable of a higher rating in and around the 72 bracket”

    So how many 67 MR horses are under rated ?!

    What rot, and you have been banging on endlessly about congestion at the lower ends of MR ? . Oh please, what a contradiction in terms.

    Yes, there’s congestion at the bottom of racing, the bread and butter of racing. Let those horses increase field size by offering more lower rated bands of handicaps.

    Then you’ll have the business viability concerning field sizes fixed, which you mentioned in the Kenilworth meeting.


    Lets take a race, as an example, where there was no question about mucking around with he pace – Sunday’s Jubilee.

    Mr. Pettigrew’s 4yo Soldier On – so on the 1 August he goes up to a 108 (98 now) and starts his 5 year old career and new new rating, with all others.

    Mr. de Kock’s 4 yo The Dazzler – goes up from 99 to 109 and turns 5.

    They clash or don’t clash, in their next race, after 1 August. Mr. Trainers, in real terms, do you expect your 5 year olds to be able to maintain a 108 and/or 109 MR ?

    I reckon not, maybe 1 in 5000 might. All these horses will drop back on there MR’s each time they complete another race.

    Yes, all horses have been equally docked 10 MR points, so you would have to credit them with a free 10 points ability, when assessing their next run, all of them.

    So are you prepared to dish out, willy nilly, an extra ten MR or ability points just for the sake of balancing up your individual race template ? This for all races ?

    So, in essence, what you propose, is similar to allowing people to enter varsity who are 10 IQ/academic points less gifted than previous years students.

  6. wesnaude1999 says:

    Just want to ask, Does the NHA have a suggestion box that punters can use to suggest improvements to the racing industry? I know that there are many stake holders in the horse racing industry but there are a lot of punters that feel that their voices aren’t being heard, according to the comments I’ve read so far.

    Also, I know that there are insights into handicapping on this website already but can somebody please explain or the editor provide an in depth article on the main differences, Advantages/disadvantages of merit rating handicapping vs the use of racefigures. I’m not too knowledgeable about racefigures as I wasn’t born or was maybe very young when racefigures were implemented.

    I’m asking this question because I see in the comment section of various ratings and handicapping articles that people have fundamentally different views on how handicapping should be conducted. thanks

  7. Brian says:

    I’m more confused than ever, although the whole thing doesn’t interest me in the tiniest.

    Seems to me though the whole thing is great in theory.

    More than 72% of horses rated down the bottom end of the scale?

    That’s the case in all professional sports, from Golf to tiddywinks. It will always be the case.

    Can’t just assign them a figure that puts them in a higher league and they fail there.

    It’s common sense to me, but then again, I just watch them run and love it

    From a comete layman’s point of view though, I can’t see raising figures assigned to a horse being the solution

  8. Shanil says:

    Not getting involved in ratings here but cannot understand why Odds on horses are so far and few compared to the UK and elsewhere. Punters love to back odds on and see your horse win by 6 lengths like the old days. This is what brings new punters into the game. Form study for low merit rated races is like studying for the lotto. Just a numbers game. A punt on the nose is not popular anymore check out the drop in the win pools.

  9. Jay August says:

    Wes, the old RF system was nothing more than a points and elimination system. It was easy for those challenged by numbers to figure hence its popularity. It allowed for horses of varying ability to compete against each other in a steady series of elimination races. The better horses graduated to the A Division while the poorer horses remained stuck in the D Division. Some refer to this with nostalgia as allowing horses to gradually move up the scales; something like shaking stones in a bucket and allowing the heavier stones to sink to the bottom after much shaking.

    That SA was unique in its figure system and that nobody else in the world considered it worth emulating should tell you all you need to know about how useful it is. Those that so consistently claim that the old RF system was better never provide proper and detailed proof of that assertion. Instead we get fed with many anecdotes.

    Let me challenge them, for they will now produce long critiques of my comment, to produce proper and verifiable evidence of the superiority of the RF system. Anecdotal references to a few examples are not acceptable. Proving a negative about the MR system can also not justify the RF system. Those arguments are simply fallacious. If you want to revert back to the past then produce solid data driven evidence that proves how superior that system was.

    There are several issues with the current MR system and will be so long as there are guidelines which bastardise proper handicapping. Those that introduced these guidelines are silent on the matter, distancing themselves from the scene of the crime. Like bad economics, those who so easily preach them (bad guidelines) are always blaming others when things go predictably wrong.

    What should be fixed is the application of the MR system. The rest of the racing world (barring North America) runs this system. Better practice exists in the world and is available to us for inspection and emulation. Going back to the RF system will prove beyond doubt that SA horse racing is stuck in the past. Why should SA be different?

    PS – for those who think that claiming races could provide the answer please update yourself on the current issues effecting field sizes in the US and the continual widening of conditions in claiming races to encourage greater field size. You may want to take a pause.

  10. joao says:


    Your point about claiming races in the USA certainly holds some water but personally I feel dismissing it out of hand based on what’s happening in the USA is the incorrect move.

    My personal reasons for wanting claiming races in SA is i find it (not much proof but i reckon I’m correct) very few horses “move” stables in SA in what is deemed an UPWARD move. In other words myself as an owner Ill move i horse to Flamingo Park because its run its course where ever it might be. BUT HAS IT?

    Claiming races would quickly sort out a few livery yards out from training years. It might not be everyones cup of tea but I reckon its a far easier system than simply just telling your trainer……Im moving the horse because ” i feel dave can do better” with claiming the trainer will have to know where to place the horse to maximise its claiming tag (and get the correct return for his owner) and at the same time ensure that ” dave does not go on to win the July ” with a horse claimed for R12 000 in a race.

  11. Ian Jayes says:

    All the problems will be solved by scrapping “benchmarks” and reverting to “Divided Handicaps” whereby the handicappers make up a “Long Handicap” and cut it into three or four races. Even with a weight scale of only 8 Kilos all the horses nominated would be accommodated.


    Brain, I can’t fathom out why there’s such a hullabaloo about the congestion at the bottom.

    It’s not surprising at all. Any trainer, owner or racing analyst will tell all-and-sundry the minute chance one has of picking a highly rated/talented horse in the sale ring.

    Secondly, because our brand/stock of broodmares are so depleted and average, it often doesn’t matter how good the Sire is. 5000 dollar mares is the term the US used to describe mediocre broodmares.

    This is confirmed by our clutter of 50 to 60 to 70 MR horses.

    All this said and done, so what !

    The race-planners must wake up and offer more lowly rated MR races.

    Stop with those ridiculous 5 to 7 horse races like @ Kenilworth 12 January – a 92 MR fillies/mares = 5 runners.

    Another example of races staged for the 95+ MR horses. On the 24 November 2018, the ridiculous 5 horse race Milton won. Race planners, it taught us nothing about the upcoming Met 2 months later.

    Ask your trainers about the product you are selling, it might serve you well. Give the 50 to 65 MR rated stayer more opportunities to race and for owners to, at the very least, compete for PLACE STAKES.

    It’s better that a slap in the face viz… the NHA’s 10 point Pulp Fiction proposed remedy.

  13. Jay August says:

    Ian, what is your definition of a “benchmark” and a “long handicap”?

    Joao, I’ll respond to your points when I’m back in front of a computer.

  14. Tony Mincione says:

    These discussions can end up in a maze. We refer to “the problem” but everyone has a different problem. That makes the solution what?

    Claiming races is the answer to some unknown question. I watched the last half dozen claiming races we had and the mainstream just ignored it completely. It’s like advertising a baseball game during the cricket world cup… pointless.

    Specific examples from Race Figures vs Merit Ratings is also pointless because you can set each up to “prove” your point.

    How we practised Race Figures complimented a system which promoted a flow where horses progressed forward. So you would only get to the (Race Figure) handicaps after you emerged from winning 2 or more plated races. Whichever method you may use to handicap your population now, the big difference is that nearly all the horses which enter the handicapping system do so after winning a (single) Maiden Plate (If we ignore Assessments).

    So the main difference is NOT how you handicap horses, but how soon good horses need to give weight. It would be relatively easy to tweak a Race Figure system to emulate a Merit system.
    Or you can band horses and have a “Race Figure” system from a Merit system tomorrow, or some hybrid.

    It really is time that people identify the problem they mean, instead of flailing accusations in a general direction they call “them”.

    Last season we had 3631 races. Of that 188 were “black type” (1/20), by my count 286 were just for 2yo’s, there were 1150 Maiden Plates (so about 1500 “winners” enter and foals registered about 3400 per year, so about 50% of all horses are non-winners) and about 2000 are handicaps. There was 40,276 runs so an average of 11 runners per race, nationally.

  15. Jay August says:

    Joao, I certainly am not dismissing anything out of hand. If anything needs to be changed in SA viz,. programming/handicapping and is a major departure from previous norm then we should lean heavily on the experience in other countries and also ensure we do not repeat the same mistakes made with the MR system.

    I doubt that trainers in SA are going to advance the idea of claiming races as it works against their ability to “capture” their clients. Is there enough support or potential support in the owner community for such a move? And if there is by what mechanism do you propose the implementation of such a system?

    I’ll concede that claiming races would make it much easier for smaller owners and those with more limited means to get involved. It would make the market for lower class horses more fluid which in theory at least should allow for a quicker transferring of risk than is currently possible under the more rigid ownership system in place.

  16. Jay August says:

    William, you have fair point saying “so what” in relation to the 72%. In a normal population two thirds of the population is clustered around the mean and 50% are below average.

    Equally you have a point in saying that the programming should be more flexible and cater for the lower class horses.

    What you are missing in your analysis is that under the current application of the MR system, which is heavily influenced by guidelines, there is a small but persistent downward movement of the mean.

    It is like the random walk of a drunk man with a heavy left side bias to his waywardness. If that problem is not resolved we’ll eventually be asking for MR10 and MR20 handicaps!

  17. Rian says:

    One Gains respect and to say Handicapping is a science is a JOKE

  18. Astrid says:

    I need some help here.

    Besides handicapping aspects, Vee Moodley told attendees that Grade 1 races are to drop and grade 2 races are to increase. He informed that filly allowances will soon be adjusted to 2kg from 2,5kg.

    The national horse racing authority regulates the sport of horse racing. Where does it get the right to change the amount of graded races and their grading? Isn’t this the choice and domain of the companies that administer and operate horse racing?

    The operators conditions deal with sex allowances. These conditions are set by the operators and not the national horse racing authority. On what basis can the sex allowance be changed by the national horse racing authority if the condition is part of administration and not regulation?

    Anyone?? Thank you.

  19. Harold says:

    KZN has already had our Grade 1 status of races such as KZN Guineas, Gold Cup and KZN Derby reduced. Surely the Gold Medallion has a great history and should retain Grade 1 status. Rather target the Majorca Stakes or the Cape Derby.

    1. Editor says:

      It’s based on numbers not sentiment unfortunately Harold…Its up to the operators to lure the better horses back

  20. Jay August says:

    Astrid, the NHA is a member of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (https://www.horseracingintfed.com). South Africa operates within the framework of agreed best practice worldwide.Being part of the international body confers benefits as well as obligations.

    The IFHA website has a list of documents produced by the various committees and sub committees which explains the agreed best practice worldwide and the difference between Part 1 and Part 2 status. You’ll get the answers you seek by reading those documents.

    SA can of course decide not to conform to the guidelines of the IFHA but we then do so at the risk of losing our Part 1 status (the top tier of racing nations) and being lumped together with Singapore and Zimbabwe as a Part 2 country.

    Part 2 status may not be an issue for the operators and those not interested in breeding but for an export market it could well be. It would not be good to lose our Part 1 status at the point we finally get the export protocols sorted out.

  21. Jay August says:

    Tony, the maze exists because people have different opinions. Free markets and the market for ideas are by necessity messy. Closing one’s mind to issues, no matter how wrong they appear is the first step to becoming ignorant. I’m not closed minded to the RF system (or any other) merely asking that we review the evidence which proves its supposed superiority.

    Let me suggest that rather than engaging in a complicated discussion on this comments thread we ask SP to mediate a debate on the issue. I’ll submit a lengthy discussion of the issues and solutions, but also why I think the MR system should stay. You can submit to the debate whatever you think should replace the MR system or whatever changes are needed. Anybody else so inclined can submit their views for publication as well.

    Mr Ed, Tony, I await your response. If you are in agreement let’s agree offline a format for the debate so that it does not descend into a maze.

  22. Wayne Fouche says:

    Far too many of our horses are already rated way above what they should be. To increase all ratings by 10 points is (imho) absolute madness

  23. TOny Mincione says:

    Why is it unfortunate that it’s based on numbers and not sentiment?

    1. Editor says:

      The ‘unfortunate’ was in reference to Harold’s outlook

      Not questioning that it has to be based on statistics – not emotion

  24. Jay August says:

    Rian, handicapping is a science if practiced correctly. It is a systematic statistical discipline to keep a population of horses handicapped and in sync from year to year. It has subjective elements but even those can be constrained by proper statistical science, or alternatively, explained by statistical method..

    Whoever decided on the guidelines many years go obviously agreed with you and decided that the statistical part of the discipline had no bearing and so introduced very unscientific elements into the mix.

    Once you deviate from the real science, as we have with these guidelines, you end up as we have with a deviation many standards away from the norm.


    Again, my nerves are shattered, but now watching The Spy Who Loved Me (Barbara Bach).

    Major Amasova, such lovely formlines you have.

    A serenade to the NHA seems to be the only way out now.

    Nobody does it better
    Makes me feel sad for the rest
    Nobody does it half as good as you
    Baby, you’re the best

    Nobody does it quite the way you do
    National Horseracing Authority – why do you have to be so bad ?

  26. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Ha ha William, very good…

    Especially after Muzi got me in P6 first leg, and then my JP first leg best bet ran 3rd…
    It looked so easy.

    Next time….

  27. Ian Jayes says:

    In reply to Jay August, Merit rating requires horses to be able to move up and down the ladder according to how they run in different races. The only way to ensure this is done properly is to stage a “Divided” handicap over a certain distance. Tainers will nominate horses of all capabilities for this. The handicapper will take all the horses nominated and make up a “long” handicap from the highest merit-rating to the lowest. He will then cut that long handicap into a number of races ensuring that the vast majority of the horses will not be at a disadvantage or under sufferance. Any horse that has a merit-rating that would distort the handicap would be left out at the discretion of the handicapper. For some reason they stopped making up long-handicaps and introduced “benchmarks” for the different handicap races. Races were designated 68, 72, 80, 86 MR handicaps, the result was that a lot of horses came into the race under suffrance and although carrying the bottom weight they were still carrying more than they should have and were badly out at the weights. This was an adulteration of the merit-rating system and could only have been done to satisfy a certain number of trainers. It is a nonsense and should be scrapped.

  28. Jay August says:

    Ian, such a solution will solve the dilemma of having an MR system with slow downward drift (of the mean) compounded by inflexible benchmark races. But it will induce another type of inflexibility; you will have to program a fixed race distance for all handicaps run on the same day. That will have other consequences.

    You are correct that too many horses run under sufferance, which distorts the handicap. There are simply not enough benchmarks and they do not cater for the poorer class horses. One can show that the horses handicapped in the lower 50% of current benchmark races are severely disadvantaged. That however is a programming issue and not an MR issue.

    In theory the benchmark races would work fine if the MR long-handicap is not subject to a continual downward drift, induced by the guidelines. In the absence of being able to penalise good horses with their correct upward adjustment, the handicapper by necessity has to make a downward adjustment to the lower class horses.

    Over time this brings the entire average down and creates the conundrum which is now evident. Simply moving the benchmarks down won’t solve the longer term problem either. Similarly moving the average MR up works in the short term but as the factors which gave rise to its necessity remain, another adjustment will be needed in 18 months time.

    What should happen is that the guidelines should be done away with, the handicappers should have the freedom to handicap properly, the long-handicap should be subjected to yearly statistical review and alignment, and the program should allow better class horses opportunities beyond pure handicaps.

    It is possible to achieve your aim of a divided handicap without the distance constraint, through other methods which perhaps are more complicated, but doable given current technology. You simply carve the population into 7 standard deviations from the mean, with overlap, and your race programming takes into account the dynamics of the racing population in planning benchmark races. The aim of the 7 SDs is to ensure as few horses as possible run under sufferance, the fewer the better.


    TORIO LAKE – 53 MR – 4
    Ribovar – 54 MR – 5
    She’s Foxy – 54 MR – 5
    Royal Marine – 51 MR – 4
    Il Mondo – 49 MR – 4
    GOLD SHADE – 50 MR – 6
    DOM SEGUIDOR – 46 MR – 5
    SHERMAN – 51 MR – 5

    Here are 8 horses of a group of hundreds of horses in the “same boat”.

    The bottom two competed today in a MR 64. The top four competed on Friday (EC) in a MR 66.
    The middle two competed yesterday (Joburg) in a MR68.

    These horses need a more even playing field with opportunities in lower banded MR handicaps.

    Dom Seguidor, bless him, tries his heart out in a MR 64 carrying 52kg with top weight carrying 60.5kg.

    This horse needs to run in a MR 54 race to be competitive, and in particular, those aged 4 and older.

    Lower banded MR handicaps, will be in the national interest as well as the interests of trainers, jockeys and owners. More entries, more rides, more chances to earn place cheques, more fines, etc etc.

    But no, the NHA want to raise the MR population by ten points to clear congestion.

    NHA, these above mentioned horses and their 1000+ fellow slower horses, will be sentenced to their barn for further solitary confinement with your wishy- washy proposal.


    Ian, the last two sentences of your statement is exactly my point as shown above.

    Jay, I don’t follow your sentence ” But it will induce another type of inflexibility; you will have to program a fixed race distance for all handicaps run on the same day. That will have other consequences.”

    Kindly explain ?

    Congestion at the bottom of the MR scale is the most natural phenomena in racing.

    The congestion only becomes a problem when not enough lower merited rated handicaps are offered and again, lower entry level MR’s will work, irrespective of distance.

    Ask any trainer, they’ll welcome this with open arms and will certainly put a smile on the faces of 70 % of owners who has a mediocre/willing horse.

    The numbers of slower runners are there in black and white and are undisputed.

  31. Jay August says:

    William, the divided handicap as suggested by Ian is at a set distance which implies that two or more handicap races on the same card will be all at the same distance. While that may satisfy all the runners which want to run over that distance, it would be excluding horses which are ready to run at other distances. You can avert some of that problem by allowing handicaps at a set distance to be split into a maximum of two divisions. This is what you see today in the Cape.

    Congestion at the bottom is not natural unless you define bottom as anything but the top third of all horses. Congestion around the mean is natural. That the program caters more for the right part of the population curve is a problem in programming. That there are more horses clustered around the mean than is normal is a problem with the guidelines which restricts horses from moving upwards too quickly, the consequence of which is that poorer class animals are pushed lower to compensate.

    I agree that there should be more benchmarks or divisions hence my suggestion of splitting the benchmark or division into seven parts (seven standard deviations with overlap) and programming these in line with the population dynamics at each racing centre. To encourage wider racehorse ownership the program will have to cater for mediocrity.

    The question is which races would these lower class handicaps replace as you cannot simply create more races. Dividing the already existing handicaps will take opportunity away from the better class horses.

    They should probably replace a small portion of the current handicaps and at least a quarter of the current Maiden races where the bulk of low-class horses reside. This will offer softer races for the low-class maiden and handicap horses.

    Stakes in these lower class races should also be dropped and used to raise that part of the program which is subject to conditions and which seeks to aid the better class horse in graduating through a series of non-handicap races.

    If you look at the current non-sand racing population which have a rating, there are 3729 horses, and of these 2062 are below 64, and 1090 below 54. The latter group are the ideal target for a lower class handicap scale.

  32. Ian Jayes says:

    We do not need benchmarks. Let the quality of the horses nominated and the cuts in the long handicap determine the designation of a particular race: A, B, C, D or E division. There is no reason why a club should not stage three handicaps over the same distance on a day. It will make for competitive racing and isn’t that what we want.

  33. Jay August says:

    Making emphatic subjective statements like “we do not need” is the surest way of ignoring unintended consequences. What often sounds so obvious and simple is many times completely different in reality.

  34. Ian Jayes says:

    The introduction of benchmarks and the tinkering that followed is what has caused the problem. Get rid of the cause of the problem and get back to proper handicapping.

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