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Ratings -Scratching Where It Didn’t Itch?

10 points was a mistake - do they realise it, though?

Two months and the cost of fixing something that isn’t broken becomes obvious. The NHRA must realize that the wholesale addition of 10 points on the population is a mistake. Or do they?

The range of turf ratings went from 0-126 to 10-136. The rating system is whole numbers and arithmetic all converted to ½ Kgs.

Tony Mincione writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that it is clear that there was no ‘need’  to add 10 points to every horse.

The letter of explanation from the NHRA was another press release of gibberish. The ratings could have stayed at a starting point of 0, rather than the 3 horses now rated ‘10’ at the bottom of the pile.

At the top of the highest level horses would carry 60kgs (or 120 half-kilos) in a handicap like the July. A rating of about 120 will represent the top 0.5%, with a handful greater than 120 to cater to super horses, but probably very few like a tenth of 1%.

From August when horses have turned 3 years old and they prepare for races like the Guineas, the 1600m weight-for-age (WFA) starts at 9kgs (18 half-kilos). That means that a young horse that can get anywhere close to 100 could have the scope to be a top horse.

1995 IGN Silver Bowl - Drum Taps

South African racing suffered a huge upheaval when it took the plunge in 1995 to change from an arbitrary handicapping system which worked in our isolation, to a merit-based system understood by modern racing and facilitated by a computerised long handicap. Timeform was the leading example at the time.

It was apparent that it would take a long time for the language of racing created over so many years of tradition to absorb a new system and create new habits.

It would be a bit like changing the currency from pounds to rands or the measuring system from pounds to kilograms and inches to centimeters.

And especially difficult for racing which used old weights and measures as an intrinsic part of the sport. Remember a furlong being 220 yards?

It is almost criminal that after a 25-year investment of time and effort where we all “got our eye in”, where the idea of a 90 horse, or a 110 horse, or a 120 horse began to take root with a fair measure of accurate understanding, that an arrogant NHRA would make an unnecessary change for the sake of change.

With no words of support from anywhere, how is it that changes still get rammed down just as if a dictator knows better than everyone? Do ‘they’  really know better? Did the NHRA consider the other methods to prevent their creep?

Comment after comment shows the confusion that the ‘new’ ratings have caused with this backward step.

National Horseracing AuthorityIt took a long time to develop the ‘gut feel’ for the metric merit system with its international correlation, and all that was damaged in moments.

When you build stairs the rule is you make the step no higher than 19,7cm and when you build a desk you aim for 75cm. Any higher and people trip on the stair or notice the desk feels wrong. That is years of unconscious calibration at work, you know this is true.

Horseracing has a steep learning curve. It’s a problem causing huge cracks in the economics of racing right now, and one we haven’t started to solve.

Many warned the NHRA strenuously when the idea was proposed. They protested as the proposal solidified into a blunder.

Now all you can ask is: could the NHRA be any more thoughtless?

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23 comments on “Ratings -Scratching Where It Didn’t Itch?

  1. Jay August says:

    Tony what is the solution then? Drop the scale back down 10 points and end the confusion so that everyone understands that 130-120=10 is the same as 120-110=10. Or is there something else necessary, or in addition, to end this confusion? If your answer is yes to the first question then are the previous guidelines reinstated?

  2. karel says:

    I still have no comprehension as to what the +10 intends to achieve.
    Tony is right when he implies that such increases destroy all previously created understanding of what ratings mean to those in the ‘business’.
    Hawwaam is in the Summer Cup with a 131 – where is the meaning, the context?
    When the doors to export open (let’s assume it will happen some day!), what will international buyers make of our horse population? The answer is not difficult to imagine.

    In a comment to Tony’s post Jay refers to “re-instating guidelines”. What on earth does that have to do with it? Or is Jay’s comment tongue-in-cheek, perhaps?


    Well, now you know how I felt at the Kenilworth meeting Karel.

    This was no proposal then, as Vee Moodley put it, it was already rubber-stamped by him.

    Those road shows were just a launching pad for Vee Moodley to let everybody know how hard he was working and shove that sham (+10Gate) down our throats.

    And so many sat there saying nothing !

    How can a 10 MR hijack ever remedy the top rated horses. No remedy is need for an improver or a naturally gifted athlete.

    So his motive for the top end is a ‘rubbish’

    At the bottom end, Shrinkage is a natural. Why screw with nature.

    If anything, the congestion at the bottom end can be relieved by offering lower benchmark handicaps –

    55 to 0, 50 to zero, these races would assist the hard knocking, sound horses who’s owners what to race them past 6 years and +.

    One of a 1000 different examples is DOM SEGUIDOR.

  4. Tony Mincione says:

    Reply to Jay August

    Long answer:
    The top five horses in the whole world are rated 127-126-125-125-125. Do It Again is rated joint 18th at 120. If everyone can do it how come we must f it up? And why are you defending a stupid position? I have no more interest in “guidelines”, or rules-when-it-suits-you, they are obviously a cheat and lack integrity and conviction.

    Short answer:

  5. John Bryant says:

    Don’t forget the 6 point increase in MRs from 1 March 2018. This was to fix the problem of “crowding”at around the 60MR mark. I never understood how moving the crowding problem up 6 points would solve the problem. So from 1 August 2019, they moved the “crowding” problem up another 10 points. You don’t need to be an actuary to understand that adding 6 or 10 points (or maybe 20 next time) to the whole population has no effect on “crowding” – it just moves the issue to a higher level. It is not the trivial issue that Jay makes it out to be. In Sires 2020 next year, Do It Again will have a higher rating than his sire Twice Over. In the 2019 edition, I see Rainbow Bridge is rated 124, – 3 points superior to Smart Call. In Sires 2020 he will be at least a 134, vastly superior to Smart Call. Some years ago (2012?) they added 6 MR points to the whole population to try and protect the graded status of certain races. After an outcry, the 6 points was removed again. However, this did not prevent some horses getting into the breeding books 6 points higher. So now, comparing offspring and other family members, I have to keep a record of which horses retired +6 before it was taken away, which horses retired +6 after march 2018 but before 1 August 2019 on so did not get the plus 10 as well. Ok, so we all know that Do It Again (MR136) is plus 16 and so actually rated 120 as per his international, but in time it is going to be very difficult to compare horses from different periods. The meaningless 6 and 10 points additions have achieved nothing except confusion!


    I sense that Mr. August is a mouthpiece for Mr. Vee Moodley ?

    I wouldn’t want that premonition of mine to deter from other useful statistics supplied by Uncle August, though.

  7. Anton Marx says:

    My view is that we now catering for bad horses and downgrade horse racing as an industry. Everyone with a decent horse start to struggle to find a race as their is limited races for higher rated horses especially these now rated between 95 to 105. I think we need to decide if we want to see proper horses running or donkey’s. It is not only 10 points a while ago the rating was also adjusted by 6 points. This means watching a 66 MR is actually a 50 MR in old days. How bad has racing become address the route course and stop bad horses run

  8. Jay August says:

    William it seems you know a lot of things or seem to believe you do. You clearly do not know me very well yet but I am no mouthpiece. Some would see it that way no doubt if it coincides with their agenda and especially if I am not pushing that agenda. This game certainly has some strange bedfellows! The question is, are you a mouthpiece for anybody or simply a cheerleader?

    I’d suggest to you that you get over your fixation with Vee – he clearly got under your skin at the CT meeting. You never fail to mention it but that story has got a little thin now. Move on, you may feel a lot better for having done so. It may also help you get some facts straight, with or without the help of my useful stats.

  9. Jay August says:

    Where am I defending a stupid position Tony? I merely asked a question to ensure I had clarity on what you are calling for. Any follow up may be construed as stupid so I’ll leave you alone. Your echo chamber is now firmly shut tight.


    Your rebuttal isn’t unexpected.

    Vee Moodley is the CEO of the NHA, the host and captain of this ill considered hijack of the MR’s.

    The mere fact that readers/enthusiasts like Tony Minicione complied this article shows that moving-on isn’t an option. Vee Moodley has shown a trend to sell his ideas come hell or high water. If you are bored with his incomprehension ideas, well… how unfortunate.

    He is a bully.

    I belong to nobody, never have been & never will be. If a bit of cheer-leading, in my subtext, is to much for you, kindly note I don’t nurture a “Bubble Boy” mentality and inspection of policies that damage SA racing and, in particular, on a national level.

    Lastly, I don’t claim to know you and have not appetite to do so. However, you do show a trend of defending the NHA without reservation.

  11. Steve Reid says:

    Come now children lets share the toys. Play nicely.

    I have stated from the get-go that this focus on handicapping is confusing considering the other issues we have in racing right now. I am absolutely in Williams corner when it comes to criticising the changes in MR that have occurred. There was no real desire to engage with stakeholders, the proposed changes were already set in stone and the meetings were all for show. Vee has engineered these, he deserves all the criticism coming his way.

    No one has answered the obvious question – why were the MR handicaps not lowered 10 points? This would have had the desired effect without making a mockery of an entire countries handicapping system. I am afraid that there are now many exceptions to the rule.

    The fact that our MR ratings are not accepted on the international stage, and that separate ratings are needed when our horses raid, should be the clear indicator that we are way off course.

    There is no place for egos or personal agendas. It is amazing how we trip ourselves up time after time on every level in racing because our so called leaders are all trying to show that they have the biggest *edited.

  12. Jay August says:

    William, anything other than conceding your point will be seen as a rebuttal. Such is the nature of accusing someone of something when you believe you have facts which are merely suppositions.

    Perhaps it is hard for you to understand why anyone can defend the MR system, although you mix MR and NHA as though they are interchangeable and the same thing. While the 10 point hike may be unfortunate and has seeds in many other bad decisions before this one, it is not one which should illicit the mass hysteria which seems to permeate Sporting Post.

    Just 12 months ago Tony postulated a race program in SA without the WFA scale, or the use of net ratings. I’d heard that same proposal from another source sometime before. Asking Tony exactly what his position is is not some sinister question.

    It is a large leap from WFA-less ratings to the pure ratings of Timeform. People clearly change their minds which Tony is welcome to do but asking him to clarify exactly what he wants to see is nothing more than what it is – a clarification.

    As trends go you show a clear trend for attacking Vee at every opportunity which indicates the personal nature of your comments. That I have no such need to do so and in fact find Vee quite pleasant, open and approachable is not a trend which I care to defend because I have no need to.

    The biggest share of bullying I see on Sporting Post is from those who don’t share the general story which is to bash the NHA and everyone directly or indirectly involved with them, or anyone who has a different opinion which contradicts this narrative. You accuse others too easily of what you practice yourself.


    Vee Moodley dismissed and then side-stepped too many questions from the floor.

    Vee Moodley’s NHA statement on the 1 August was disingenuous in respect of the content of his speech & intentions sold at the workshop.

    Vee Moodley bullies his viewpoints after saying he is receptive to ideas.

    He rubber stamped the 10 MR farce before the workshops. I feel that highlighting his bully-like approach is still rather polite of me.

    A reputable & tested through time organization viz. The Sporting Post, doesn’t need a cheerleader.

    They do not have any sort of track record of hurting or damaging South Africa’s racing product.

    They have an excellent record of contributing and engaging with constructive submissions .

  14. Tony Mincione says:

    All of Messers Reid, Milkovitch, August and Marx have valid points that won’t be going away. Lets see how it goes.

    In his initial reply, Mr august says “Tony what is the solution then? Drop the scale back down 10 points and end the confusion so that everyone understands that 130-120=10 is the same as 120-110=10.”

    The whole point was exactly that the numbers had acquired a meaning, and that messing with them defeated so many gains. And if it were so simple that you just -10, then we wouldn’t have Snaith contemplating what he must do with a 102 if it’s wrong. How does it help him to say just think of it as a 92?

    Here is a first-hand example. Many years ago a well bred filly in training came up for sale. She had won 2 races and had just turned 4. I knew that the Sporting Post calibrated the ratings of each crop statistically so that the median horse linked each generation. I guess to make the ratings relevant to “the average” horse.

    The technique was so strong, that in the front of the annual was a decent prediction of what the ratings meant. I think it said something like an 84-90 for a filly meant about a 4x winner in a strong centre, or something like that. This dual winning filly had run an 88 earlier, so I thought we could take a chance.

    She quickly won another two races, we got an offer and sold at a decent profit on the basis that the next win could take a while because she really looked like 88 was about top of the range.

    It wasn’t clever, it was just using ratings in an alternative manner because you could rely on what they meant. I remember that we have added at least 22 points on so far, and it’s either that the NHRA isn’t doing basic housekeeping or that the handicapping rules cause an unfixable creep. Actually neither of those explanations are good enough for owners who deserve better. They deserve the problem fixed because handicapping determines the outcome and we all play under that pall.

    I guess the whole thing needs to be handled with a bit more care and less bluster. 25 years and hardly anyone is happy…or convinced even.

  15. Anton Marx says:

    I just had a look, have a mare at 99 MR please find me a race in Gauteng up to end of December 1200m but plenty for lower rated horses


    Tony, I have a question about the actual carded MR Handicaps eg. Turffontein’s 8th & 9th race tomorrow.

    A FM 76 Handicap and an 88 Handicap.

    Would these races have been originally programmed as a 66 and a 78 ?

    I just want to establish whether the planned and approved racing program was subject to the 10 point hike or not ..?


    Mr. Bryant,

    Exactly, just a knee jerk reaction. This is still the tip of the iceberg.

  18. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Its designed to confuse….They want the punters to struggle, they don’t realise that “:winning” is what keeps the game going. The whole system is designed to “stop” the punter from working it out….Bubble gum racing with bubble gum results. It is an agenda to bring it all down. 6 horses running past the line at the same time, no champs ( no bankers in other words )….they don’t want the punter to win. The ANC don’t want to spend the taxes and improve peoples lives, unless it is on them, they think it is their money, it’s the same thing. Race 3 Durbanville….which Snaith horse ? the jockey or the money ? ( its now guess work, no more form or info )…. Punters are walking in droves but nothing will change until it all comes crashing down….maybe the exports will come in time to save the elite from having to be part of the “people” ?

  19. Tony Mincione says:

    Tony, I have a question about the actual carded MR Handicaps eg. Turffontein’s 8th & 9th race tomorrow. A FM 76 Handicap and an 88 Handicap. Would these races have been originally programmed as a 66 and a 78 ?

    And a 72 Hcp, so that would be 62 then. I really don’t know, would they have scheduled a “66” and “62” hcp for a Saturday? There are 6 plated races from 9 and it’s mostly modest except for the Graduation where half of the field are 100+.

    With regards to Graham Hurlstone-Jones who says:
    Its designed to confuse….They want the punters to struggle”

    That doesn’t strike me as an obvious point. From an income point of view “they” want huge pools and huge fields. Lots of carry-overs make big pools, but t takes money out of circulation. I’m sure there is a sweet spot, and for which they may be aiming. But who knows? I don’t think you can co-ordinate results and dividends with any accuracy and keep the noms going properly.

    The operators will have a problem when owners want one thing and punters another, Uptil now punters have been brainwashed to the extent that R50 punters are worried that the Summer Cup is ‘only” R2 Million and is there enough stake money. That is a bit like shoppers worried about the directors’ salaries at PnP, or worse…dividends. But confusion has been the name of the game for a while now, and those who benefit stay shtum.


    Thanks Tony, I’m really not sure as well

    As the race planning/programming, I presume, would go hand-in-hand with the Handicapping Dept’s distress about this shrinkage and so-called congestion at the bottom end, I’m wandering if the handicaps have been upped 10 points.

    I would imagine not, but was just looking for a confirmation.

    All the best

  21. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Exactly my point….so why do they “play” around with the system, why does nothing work properly ?……Why is Eskom and the SOE’s being run into the ground ? so they can be sold off at 1 cent to the dollar to private entities owned by cronies. A CEO of one of the big Pharma companies said ” we are not here for your health we are here for the share price”…..we need to get real here. SA Racing is being strip mined so its either extreme incompetence, gross mismanagement or an agenda. They really don’t care about the punter, they have turned betting into lottery but have been forced to re assess as the “punter” sees there money being taken and used for the “elites” personal promotions, you put your foot on the hose for a reason…why ? ……I reckon its the export market they are all waiting to suck dry and spit out the rest for us. The money is in the breeding not the racing ( except the spectacular feature days to sell their wares but that’s paid for by the carry over). The punter and small owner are just an annoyance as shown by the actions from the ivory tower….When the romans realised the “100 day games” was a distraction to hide the corrupt destructive leadership they burnt Rome down. Punters will not come back….the elite keep taking the money through the carry overs….that is an agenda, they don’t want the punters to win ( they have it upside down but they know this ). This is how parasites work eventually they will kill the host through pure greed and personal narrow agendas…..The men with many hats….

  22. Jay August says:

    I was mildly amused watching Beauty Generation win yesterday off a HK rating of 137 while his international rating is 125. I’m sure the HK differential of 12 points is fully justified given the general admiration we all have for their racing administration.

  23. Thagaraj Naicker says:

    I agree with @Graham…

    Punters fund the stakes (through a still secretive stakes agreement!!) and if punters have fewer Rands in their hands, or move to a myriad of alternative betting options, racing stakes are likely to decrease in the long term…

    Racing has become a lottery in the operators quest to compete with the lottery and its payouts…not realising that if one wants to win a lottery amount, one can just take the lottery…

    Punters want the opportunity to place bets race by race…those that win big (Pick 6), outside of addicts, take the cash and are gone with little to none of it returning to pools (and stakes)…

    I think racing should reduce stakes payments to first 2 or 3 such that there are more triers in every race and thus form will likely hold up better than it currently does…I’m also convinced that the bigger Pick 6’s are won by a few in the know at the expense of the masses that are not privy to information and intent of some owners and trainers…fewer soft runs to manipulate ratings to set up later betting coups…the cream will rise to the top thus enabling more punters to have winners and bet race by race by having money returned to their pockets more often…

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