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Domestic Population MR Increase

Effective 1 August 2019

Over the past few seasons it has been observed that a general decline in the Merit Ratings of South African domiciled horses was occurring, and that the trend has continued despite the ‘blanket’ six pounds raise to all Merit Ratings which came into effect in March 2018.

National Horseracing AuthorityThis is particularly true at the lower end of the spectrum, where some 75% of the horse population are rated 72 and below.

The above observations were discussed extensively during the 2019 Handicappers Roadshow.

Effects of the Guidelines and Slippage Factor:

In large part, the problem of “slippage” in the overall Ratings has been exacerbated by Handicapping guidelines which were designed to severely limit increases in horses’ Ratings thereby ‘protecting’ improving horses and which in turn, as a compensatory measure, resulted in a more vigorous approach towards dropping the Ratings of struggling horses in a bid to equalise the Handicapping as much as possible.

This practice resulted in 75% of the Horse Population being rated below 72 thus causing an extreme imbalance (or congestion) in the National Merit Ratings Pyramid and consequentially to the National Race Programme.

Current Handicapping Philosophy:

Since January 2019, the NHA have adopted a more accountable and pure Handicapping philosophy by reverting to, where possible, assessing horses on their performance and not on other (often irrelevant) criteria as promulgated by the Guidelines, but the damage had already been done.

This current philosophy of handicapping horses more accurately in terms of their actual achievements should ensure that there will not be such a rapid decline in the overall Ratings again in future and, where possible (except where local operators conditions limit the Handicappers), a horse’s published or official Merit Rating would reflect the Handicappers’ assessments of a horse’s ability.

National Horseracing Population Merit Rating Adjustment:

Accordingly, it was proposed by the NHA Handicapping team, and largely agreed upon at the Roadshows, that another increase in Domestic Merit Ratings be considered in order to balance the Population’s Merit Ratings and the Race Programme as well as alleviate any further degeneration of the Population’s Merit Ratings.

This proposal was ratified by the National Board and will come into effect on 1 August 2019.

It has been agreed that the Domestic Merit Ratings of all horses domiciled in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape will be increased by 10 pounds.

Chief handicapper Lennon Maharaj

Eastern Cape:

Horses domiciled in the Eastern Cape will have their Merit Ratings increased by 5 pounds.

This decision was taken in light of the Eastern Cape racing centre being a victim of the ‘creep factor’. An Eastern Cape horse will be defined, for the purposes of the adjustment, as any horse domiciled and trained in the Eastern Cape that has had two of its last three starts in Eastern Cape.

Northern Cape and Zimbabwe:

The same definition of what constitutes domiciles will be applied to horses based in the Northern Cape and Zimbabwe, but no increase will be implemented in the Merit Ratings of horses in those regions.

National Horseracing AuthorityMerit Ratings and the Race Programme:

This increase will have the highly desirable effect of uncluttering the lowest divisions as well as helping to boost the higher divisions, where races often attract small fields or fall away altogether due to insufficient entries.

Horses at the bottom of the Ratings’ spectrum will also find it much easier to get into races than is presently the case, where they are regularly eliminated or have no option but to contest races which are too strong for them.

The National Race Programme, as confirmed by the Racing Operators, will be adjusted to accommodate the impending Merit Rating increase and should ensure a balance between the Merit Ratings and the National Race Programme.

International Merit Ratings:

It should be noted that the increase will only affect Domestic Merit Ratings and not the International Ratings of South African trained horses.  The International Ratings of South African trained horses are done by the World’s Best Racehorse Ratings Committee.

Handicapping Methodology and Updated Guidelines:

A Handicapping Methodology Guide as well as the updated Handicapping Guidelines will be published by the NHA on implementation of the abovementioned National Merit Rating increase.

  • Press release published by NHA on Monday 22 July 2019

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18 comments on “Domestic Population MR Increase

  1. Paulo says:

    Promoting mediocrity again – the horses get worse in ability and we “make” them look better instead.

  2. Tony Mincione says:

    It is disappointing, or a disgrace, depending on how important the handicapping of horses is to you, that we allowed participants on the field to govern the officials off the field.

    So instead of changing the entry requirements to races or the weight rules of races, we tampered with the actual ratings of horses to the point where ratings have no objective meaning.

    The way we have done it now, ratings only make proper sense within local populations, they are less meaningful between regions and have zero meaning internationally. We have defeated the very objective we were trying to achieve, which is have a good assessment of each horse so that we CAN make races more fair in ways we want.

    Essentially honest ratings are manipulated downwards constantly by rewarding failures so that after many repetitions of the cycle the numbers slowly gravitate to the basement. Global changes like this are not a cure, rather its a placebo effect.
    It looks bad and does nothing.

    At this point there is hardly anything we can trust about the handicapping system other than the differences of our top few runners, and they spend most of their time NOT in handicaps.

    So nothing new here then.

  3. Michael Jacobs says:

    Just a question, excuse my ignorance,what will stop the MRs dropping back during the upcoming season? Horses who were artificially raised will not perform at that level so their MRs will start being reduced, and then we will once again have a large population of 70- rated horses. What am I missing here?

  4. karel says:

    The apparent reason we are in this situation is as a result of the invention of ‘Handicapping Guidelines’ several years ago, and the ignorance of the then-board of the NHA which approved them.
    The originators of these guidelines (you know who you are!) should take full responsibility for the utter failure of the system. Their current silence on the matter speaks volumes.
    The question is, will the NHA finally see the light and remove the guidelines from the system, so that handicappers can do the job they are employed to do.

  5. Beatle says:

    Our racing has really become a joke , by adding 10 to MR will not solve the problem as eventually this time next year we sitting with another backlog – so are we gonna raise again another 10 – blows my mind that people like this are running our game

  6. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    i wonder how a local operator condition can be binding on a national regulatory bodies rating

  7. Ian Jayes says:

    Why can we not go back to proper handicapping and proper “Divided” races? Problem would be solved.


    There comes a time when the bitch don’t recognize her pups anymore to the point where she casts them out.

    This dissipation of care and nurturing by the mother, as the pups get older, is viewed as a natural phenomena.

    The mothers of handicapping @ the NHA have artificially made handicapping unrecognizable.

    Is it a horse or a flea that they are handicapping ? … no man, it’s a pastrami, gherkin & mayo on rye !!

    Bitches be crazy

  9. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Another plaster over the wound….its gonna keep bleeding out……


    Graham & Ian, here’s another mystery or contradiction arising from the Kenilworth roadshow I attended as compared to Vee Moodley’s dissemination published above :
    If not mentioned 4 times, Mr. Vee Moodley mentioned 10 times that ‘the people’ must make up their mind as to what they want, as the handicappers are shackled by the Guidelines tabled.

    Mr. Moodley, you must be referring to the guidelines in Handicapping scroll labelled – Update June 2012, Update Nov 2012 & Update April 2016.

    Your clear frustration was illuminated, while responding to questions when you pointed across the floor, to Robert Bloomberg, and said ” there, ask him, it’s his baby” (the line horse, etc etc).

    The more pertinent question from me is – Who was on this committee from June 2012 that tabled/agreed the 12 bullet points that currently exist.

    Who was involved then… Was in not you when you were a handicapper @ NHA then ?

    I don’t understand your position now and then, surely you and others have put your own foot in it ?

    I was invited to the roadshow as the “public”. I’m not interested in any alliances, clubs or business that relate to the racing industry, just the truth and integrity.

    Mr. Moodley, it appears to me that you are hell-bent on fiddling with/rubbishing Phil Bull’s aged old, respected and tested principles of TimeForm.

    You seem to be confused, just as you asked me in the meeting 🤣🤣🙃🙃

  11. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Mr Ed, you know, I wish I joined this forum years ago. My English has improved and people are noticing …..

    Boom- William comes up with another one ,, Bitch and recognizing her pups,,,, whaaat ? This one I must use this weekend saam Die Engelsmanne….

    And off Course The Articles are great, Thank You

    Just one negative today… That bleddie nr 7 today in Race 2 at Hollywoodbets Scottsville ….
    Just kidding, horses do not know their prices

    Good Night

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Cecil
      The connections of the second race winner were bullish and got the lot at 60-1.
      Good luck to them
      You can watch it here:

  12. Jay August says:

    William. I’ve noticed recently that it has become a habit in Cape Town to blame the fire truck for fires. Meanwhile the arsonists are unseen. unheard and seemingly exonerated.

    In JHB we can blame the rarefied air for any malady but what’s your excuse down in Cape Town?


    I don’t understand your question Jay


    What has Cape Town to do with it, please clarify Jay. I attended the Kenilworth roadshow in Cape Town .

    Robert Bloomberg was there, he resides in Cape Town, I don’t know in which province Vee Moodley resides, does that perhaps help you ?

  15. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    I heard the interviews ? Bullish ?…nice win place treble with stable( 300/1 )….and what about today at the Vaal ? Peter 33/1 won by 5 lengths ? bullish ? ( he had another big treble last week leading with a 20/1 ( 400/1 )) or the Bremmer 20/1 first leg for the treble last week ? bullish ? ( 300/1 ) while I am at PE, Mckensie double ( 40/1 shot to start 200/1 ) or the 33/1 first leg treble for Matchett ? ( 600/1) Bullish ? you are kidding me, its patterns not form. I promise you ED people are asking questions…..like above. These horses coming from no where and tying up with doubles and trebles is ok ? because it has always been like this ?…..Any other business concerning the huge money involved that had results like this would be seriously questioned. Todays 33/1 is an absolute killer and not a peep….Bullish ? more like bullshit….you dont get it….people will not come into the industry when this cannot be explained on an ongoing basis. Why are horse priced at 20/1 plus ? there is a reason….I suppose I will hear all the cliche’s now……more like distraction. Tell me its all ok and I will explain that to my buddies that just ask how did that horse win ?I tell them no one knows until the race is run, they then ask “how comes the stable doesn’t know” then their faces light up as they realise, they say thats wrong……its impossible to tell them this is normal, they walk away laughing Hollywood write up today….”Poor form look else where ” for Lithuanian dream from the hot Peter stable…..but that’s ok……no questions asked, next race in half an hour. Is no one understanding that the p6 carryovers will kill the R6 punter, the bottom will just fall out, its coming …..maybe thats the plan. Lets say your mum put R 10 on R6, the hot Peter yard no 4 and this happened…how do you explain ? thats racing !!! and then the banker of the day ??? carryover…..game over….I give up, I must be wrong….. hot tip, put your house on the 10 to win or place R9 Vaal,it does not need to win now. The other one came in….The commentary is ridiculous, like we are children. Egg on our face ? every day…..

  16. Andrew says:

    Do I have it right? On August 1, Do It Again will rated the best horse on the planet MR 136!


    Mr. Moodley, Mr. Maharaj and Mr Mathew Lips says = a 136 on the planet South Africa

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