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MR’s – How Useful Are They?

An attempt to put theory to the test - have your say!

Readers who responded to the Challenge posted on this website some days ago have all received their free copies of the Sporting Post PRO for Saturday’s meetings.

Two races were selected to put the usefulness of MR to the test:

  • Turffontein race 3
  • Durbanville race 7

There are two parts to this:

  • pre-race
  • post race.

Initial thoughts for pre-race are below, and additional comments from everyone are welcomed. Post-race follows much later!

Turffontein race 3: MR 95 Handicap for Fillies & Mares – 2000m

Weights have been set according to the official handicapper’s current MR’s, which in theory should give every runner a fair chance.

To make a sensible analysis, it is necessary to test the reliability of the official MR of each of the runners: are they just about right, too high, or too low?

And that’s where the trouble starts: we have no easy way of checking.

The official handicapper doesn’t publish his actual race ratings for horses, only the ratings to be used pre-race – nothing post-race.

So how would we know?

We can make an educated guess, though, with added help from the published Sporting Post ratings, post-race for each run.

Let’s take the runners one by one.

Flichity By Farr

  • The MR’s for her last half a dozen runs are consistent, which is confirmed by the Sporting Post actual race ratings which are consistent as well.
  • She has raced over long distances and this 2000m is probably the minimum she needs.
  • This 5yo mare hasn’t raced since the end of July, which is not a negative as she ran an excellent race a year ago after a similar break. That said, she has her first run for a different trainer (Nieuwenhuizen) here.
  • What about the level of her rating? Of her last few runs only one has been in a handicap, where she ran just under 5 lengths behind the winner in a 2400m race.
  • That could suggest she ran 2kg (4 MR points) below her assigned MR.

Pretty Border

  • She is stable companion to Flichity By Farr and has her regular jockey Munger in the saddle.
  • Does that make her the stable elect?
  • Pretty Border has raced with the same MR at her last three starts and has the same again here.
  • The first of those three was a handicap, where she was beaten a whisker, suggesting her MR was spot on.
  • She last raced at the end of July.

Bondiblu

  • Now a 7yo, her MR’s have been moving up and down like a yoyo, mainly in longer distance races. The SP ratings show a similar pattern of inconsistence.
  • Her performances came both in handicaps and conditions races. Her last start was in a handicap where she was beaten 3 lengths over 2400m, so her MR probably was about right. It was left unaltered, and is about as high as it was earlier in her career.
  • Much depends on her current fitness (she last ran in August), and she would probably have liked it bit further.
  • Interestingly, her jockey Strydom doesn’t often ride for trainer Marwing – he has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 7.

My Dream Chaser

  • She is a third runner for trainer Nieuwenhuizen, but doesn’t have the services of regular rider Munger (who is on Pretty Border).
  • She won a handicap in September with MR 87 by 3.5 lengths (very comfortably at that), over 1800m. That caused her rating to go up to MR 95 two weeks later, when ran no sort of race, beaten 11 lengths. If that effort is overlooked, she might well be a little under-rated.
  • On the face of it, the filly is much improved following her break from May to August this year.

Emily Hobhouse

  • She won two handicaps over 2400m in June (by a length) and July (by a whisker), which made her MR go up by 9 points.
  • Her second increase (for the whisker win) was an excessive 6 points.
  • Next, after a break from July to September, she was beaten 3 lengths in a 1600m handicap.
  • She’s possibly overrated somewhat on her current MR.

Rabia The Rebel

  • She ran 5th in a handicap in July, beaten 2.75 lengths and turned the tables on the winner 3 weeks later, on 2.5kg better terms, showing just how perfect MR adjustments can be. She won at 11/1…
  • Her only subsequent run can be ignored as her saddle slipped.
  • She’s a consistent performer (which her Sporting Post ratings also show) and is probably rated about right.

Circle Of Latitude

  • She showed a sudden return to form when winning a handicap last time out, by a length, over 2000m.
  • That win followed four handicap efforts where she was beaten between 5 and 7 lengths in each, but those came after a lay-off from June ’18 to May ‘19. Her last win earned her a 3 point increase, but she is still rated a few points less than last year. She could be a little under-rated here then.

Jacko Boy

  • She has two wins and a second from three starts since August, all in handicaps over 2000m.
  • Her last two efforts were a second by a whisker and a win by a whisker, which suggests her rating is about right.
  • Nevertheless, she got a 4 point increase for her last win, which looks excessive on the face of it. So unless she improves again here, she could now be over-rated.

Angelic Appeal

  • Now 7yo, she had a second (by a whisker) and a first (by 1.75 lengths) in handicaps in August.
  • Her win (despite a slipped saddle) made her rating go up by 4 points, which looks about right. She ran once subsequently, when reported not striding out, and beaten seven lengths.
  • Her rating is unaltered, and she looks rated about right for now. It is noteworthy that she had a much higher rating earlier in her career ( a comparable 92, vs 79 now).

From the above it should be possible to compile a shortlist of main contenders who have a rating advantage.

My Dream Chaser – looks underrated  7/1.

Circle Of Latitude – looks somewhat underrated 9/2

Angelic Appeal – rated about right (but with possible latent plus)  10/1

Rabia The Rebel – looks about right   12/1

Bondiblu – probably about right  6/1

Pretty Border – probably about right 7/1

Jacko Boy – possibly overrated  3/1F

Emily Hobhouse – possibly overrated 9/2

Flichity By Farr – probably overrated  7/1

To come to a final choice, there is of course the issue of pace in this smallish field, over 2000m on the inside track. Rabia The Rebel looks the likely front runner, but how fast she’ll go is hard to guess. She might steal it, so 12/1 looks juicy?

 

Durbanville – race 7: Gr3 Matchem Stakes – 1400m

Conditions race as follows:

  • Open to Horses at Weight-For-Age + Penalties
  • Weights: 5-year-olds & older 57 kg ; WFA: 3yo – 7.0 kg
  • Penalties: In addition, further penalties to accrue as follows for races won in the period 18 months prior to the date of issuing of weights
  • Winner of a Grade 1 . . . . . 3.0 kg
  • Winner of a Grade 2 . . . . . 2.0 kg
  • Winner of a Grade 3 . . . . . 1.0 kg
  • Penalties not cumulative; sex Allowance of 2.5 kg for Fillies and Mares
  • This makes it straightforward to apply MR to the weights as the first step.
  • Make the adjustment like this: MR plus half-kilos less than 60kg, minus WFA (7kg for 3yo)

Undercover Agent  MR130  60kg  130

One World  MR127  58.5kg  127+3=130

Search Party  MR115  57kg  115+6=121

New Caledonia  MR109  57kg  109+6=115

Star Chestnut  MR109  57kg  109+6 = 115

Bishop’s Bounty  MR107  57kg  107+6 = 113

Fifty Cents  MR105 57kg 105+6 = 111

Ready Steady Go  MR105  57kg  105+6 = 111

Pleasedtomeetyou  MR112  56.5kg  112+7=119

Sacred Arrow  MR110  56.5kg  110+7=117

African Warrior  MR 112  52kg  WFA-7kg  112+16-14=114

On MR, Undercover Agent and One World rate 9 points clear of Search Party and 11 points and more of the rest.

They both return from a lengthy break, but both have done well in the past after a break.

The betting supports the MR finding: Undercover Agent 13/10, One World 17/10.

African Warrior is an optimistic 6/1, the rest are in double figures.

Search Party at 33/1 could be a rewarding place bet.

Look forward to comments.

We’ll do the post-race analysis after Saturday. That should be interesting!

Have Your Say

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22 comments on “MR’s – How Useful Are They?

  1. Cohen says:

    One winner, One World!!!

  2. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    The Matchem looks cut and dried as weight for age does not give too much up for the lesser weights. Fitness ? and a 3 year old ! African warrior to pip the big two with his late kick but it should be the top two. Circle of Latitude looks like she is ready to win again. Top form, top jockey who is riding well and running so close to Sunshine over 2000 seems to say at 81 she will win another and she likes Turfentein. This is the type of race that I do not go close as it is so subjective. Dream Chaser has been stopped in her tracks I think, same with Rabia, Angelic and Emily. Jacko Boy to show the quality at the 2000 distance with Circle of Latitude….I think race fitness will be important. The top weights are in trouble I think….Maybe Strydom can steal it over the 2000 from the front….? Thats my take and I did not use the Post to start I have always used it to confirm. ……so game on !

  3. Michael Jackson says:

    Let me state my case. Firstly, I am not a fan of Merit rating handicapping , be that’s as it may, I will give my selections for the 2 races. I don’t do Mathematics exercises but look at current and historical form and personal fancies.

    So for Race 3 my view is that there is a wide weight spread (12 kilos) so more of a true handicap. These are well exposed females, so a honest race can be expected. I think horses in the middle weights can be right there. Here goes:

    4 My Dreamchaser- this filly can still improve and I think she will win
    7 Circle of Life- a very handy weight in this field, lightly raced and can still improve
    2 Pretty Border- has run against classy sorts, big weight but can be right there
    5 Emily Hobhouse- might prefer further but with weight allowance can be right there.

    The Matchem stakes is a conditions/WFA race, with a mix of class horses, hard knockers, younger class 4yr olds and one or two sprinters. In a race like this MRs should stand up although the conditions and horses returning from breaks could influence the outcome. The top 2 stand out like a sore thumb, then it’s a lottery for 3rd and 4th.

    1 Undercover Agent- class horse of the field, races well after a rest, should win this.
    2 One World- strong front runner
    9 PleasedToMeetYou- very consistent and can certainly run a place.
    8 Ready Steady Go- a frontrunner who can hold on for a place.

    Let’s see folks

    1. karel says:

      Michael, you make me sad.
      This is meant to be a debate on how to read Merit Ratings, not a tipping competition.

      You give comments without any substantiation.
      You may well get the result right, but your way is not something others can learn from, or base their future thinking on.

  4. Michael Jackson says:

    Graham Hurlstone-Jones makes a valid point in the first article on this topic.

    The 2 races that were chosen are not great examples for MR handicapping. The Turffontein Race is a well-exposed field of fillies, and the Matchem stakes is a Conditions/WFA race. Race 4 Durbanville is a better example to prove the folly of MR handicapping for young horses that had just won a maiden. What makes Flame Tree a 94, Templeton a 84, Kelpie a 82 and Flatware a 80? All 4 fillies recently won a maiden, they are all 3yrs old and they are all having their first run since winning that maiden. Why should they be carrying different weights? They should all be carrying an benchmark weight for having won a maiden. They may have different MRs but that is merely the opinion of a subjective handicapper. If Flame Tree wins this race she should be top class, as she is giving weight to her contemporaries who haven’t as yet been proven to be better than her. Let’s see how this pans out!

  5. Michael Jackson says:

    PS. I would like the view of Messrs Miedema and August on the outcome of Race 4 Durbanville(1st, 2nd and 3rd of the 3yr old fillies only) pre-race, not after the race has been run when analysis-paralysis sets in. Personally I think Templeton or Kelpie should win.

    1. karel says:

      That is a loaded question.
      Flame Tree and Templeton both are once-raced winners, over 1400m and 1200m, now going a mile.
      How can you predict how good they are?
      Your earleir question about the difference in MR for both these horses.
      Horses get MRs based on the MRs of horses they race against.
      There is one connecting factor between the two: Flame Tree beat Marvilloso over 1400m by 8 lengths (Marvilloso won next start).
      Templeton beat Marvilloso over 1200m by 5 lengths.
      On the face of it, Flame Tree may be 3 lengths better than Templeton. Of course we don’t know whether the handicapper used Marvilloso as a line in either of these two races.
      So simply put, Flame Tree should have a considerably higher rating than Templeton.
      How will they handle the mile? How much will either of them be better than their first win? You don’t know and I don’t know. The race will tell.
      All that said – this IS a handicap – so he handicapper HAS TO give reasoned MRs. Which he did, whatever you may have missed.

  6. Zietsman says:

    For the Matchem stakes on my ratings and official Merit ratings its a 2 horse race between Undercover Agent and One World if you only consider exposed and confirmed ratings I agree but African Warrior is unexposed against older horses on handicapping terms so his 112 rating atm is just a guess. AW never been tested over 1400m and the he just do enough to win each race he contested and been unlucky not to win the only 2 races he didnt win. I will include him in exotics. He may well be a top top horse and only the race will tell.

    Turffontein race 3
    All well exposed and I will post each filly/mare merit rating achieved in each of their last 5 runs if you handicap each race without the restrictions of the handicappers. To win a handicap you either must be improving still , or you should have proven in the past you capable to beat your current rating in a true run race. Where the total donkeys normally arrives is when its a false run race and that rating can normally totally be ignored. I adjusted all ratings before the 10 point increase to what they currently are.

    Nr 1 Flichity by farr
    7/1 odds
    64kg!!!!!!
    Current rating 103
    Last 5 runs :
    102
    100
    102
    102
    99.

    Couldnt run to / or beaten her rating. No chance , especially with 64kg on her back . Coming from a break and new stable.
    Should be double her current price .

    Nr 2 Pretty Border
    7/1 odds
    61,5kg
    Current rating 100
    Last 5 runs :
    104
    104
    100 (when carrying 62,5kg)
    —- No rating – false run race , although she won
    104

    Beaten 3 out of 4 times her rating each time by 2kg . Only concern is the 61,5kg she carries.
    Huge price at 7/1 and more than double the price she should be. Only concern is its her first run back after a short rest. If she doesnt run a cracker then next time fill the kitty.

    Nr 3 Bondiblue
    5/1 odds
    61,5kg
    Current rating 98
    Last 5 runs :
    81
    94
    97
    99
    97

    Ran almost exactly to her rating in last 3 runs . Will battle to win but definitely place chance.

    Nr 4 My dream chaser
    7/1 odds
    59kg
    Current rating 95
    Last 5 runs :
    86
    94
    87
    97
    75

    Erratic form but capable to upset but looks like soundness issues. Can upset quartet but stable mate preferred. Should be in double figures.

    Nr 5 Emily hobhouse
    7/2 odds
    55kg
    Current rating 85
    Last 5 runs:
    77
    80
    83
    95 !!!
    85 (first race after rest and way too short)

    Beaten current rating by 5kg in 2nd last start before being rested. Comeback run over too short distance still run to current rating. 7/2 worth a try still. Only concern is this run is only 2 weeks after comeback run and can caught horses out and result in a flat run . If she doesnt run a cracker now then next start will be cherry ripe.

    Nr 6 rabia the rebel
    14/1 odds
    54,5kg
    Current rating 84
    Last 5 runs:
    78
    83
    82
    84
    79 (saddle slipped)

    Obvious pacesetter and wont be surprise to see her go close with a handy weight . Definite quartet chance , if she makes it a false run , she can slow them down and skip and upset. Nice place odds.

    Nr 7 circle of lattitude
    5/1 odds
    53kg
    Current rating 81
    Last 5 runs :
    77
    —-False run
    74
    80
    80

    Handicapper is just on top of her but sure have a quartet chance . Too short the price but she will be able to keep Rabia the Rebel honest and make sure its a true run race.

    Nr 8 jacko boy
    22/10 odds
    52,5kg
    Current rating 82
    Last 5 runs:
    67 (too short the distance)
    76
    80
    84
    82

    Proven to be just ahead of handicapper still but very short priced at 22/10. She cant beat pretty border or emily hobhouse if either run to proven ability.

    My selections:

    5 Emily hobhouse
    2 Pretty border
    8 jacko boy

  7. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Yikes….that is well presented. What you seem to show is the pricing is out from the odds displayed. I have always found this a problem as well….( the fact the horses are priced wrong to start with `)…

  8. RoyKass says:

    Strange how the MR system is so debatable. After all we are assessing speed machines not a beauty contest. Anyway, I am going to try SP MR today combined with its SSI and see what happens. What I can’t understand though, is why you nominatr a Roving Banker which has a MR below other runners in the field. Surely your highest MR horse should be the preferred runner.

    1. karel says:

      Roving Banker is meant to be the horse most likely to run in the first three (hence roving). That suggests the most consistent in the field, not necessarily to best rated (who might not be consistent).
      That said, we have two different analysts who each do their own thing, and not necessarily follow my original instructions!
      Sometimes that’s good, other times not – like when top rated horses win at long prices and they have ignored it!

  9. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Don’t really have a huge interest in Joburg racing:

    For the the Matchem:

    The top two are well clear in the ratings and even if half ready should run 1.2. The rest under sufference over the distance

    Search Party earned his rating based on 1000m cape flying – won his maiden over a mile – not for me today

    New Caledonia – second to Rainbow Bridge last year-carries half a kg less – but has not run to that achievement since – consider for 3rd 4th

    Star Chestnut – earned his rating winning an event in PE downfield last year off half a kg more – weakfish pinnacle last time – over handicapped off this rating and therefore even more under sufference – Fourie Magic!!! – maybe 4th

    Bishops Bounty – another who confirms his rating with PE form- close proximity to Under Cover Agent a year ago puts him closer at the weights but another whose rating is earned over shorter – 3 rd 4th

    Fifty Cents – 5th last year off 1/2 kg more – ratings earned and confirmed in PE – 4th chance

    Ready Steady Go – won weakfish pinnacle and got no penalty confirming lack of strength – not for me

    Pleased to Meet You – on collateral form with twist of fate in Cape Classic could be 1kg under Rated – 3rd 4th

    Sacred Arrow – should battle to beat Pleased to Meet You – but a lurker for 3rd 4th

    African Warrior – benefits from only having a 5pt bump in ratings – rating unconfirmed at this early stage – could be better or worse than rating – conditions of race clearly not in favor- silly not to include for 3rd 4th

    Despite the best horses clearly prepping they should dominate , I think they will dominate despite not running near their ratings , placed horses going to get stiff penalties if arithmetic is applied

  10. Rod Mattheyse says:

    I think on the balance of probabilities Flame Tree has been given a high starting point, was on track the day she won, beautiful strong filly, I think Kelpie has done more and given a lighter mass – Bitter Lemon could run a big race

  11. Rod Mattheyse says:

    One of the right ones won, but for me the second horse casts some doubt over the reliability of the race and its ratings

  12. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Poor old Flame Tree….stuck with a 90 and as for De Milo’s run on African Warrior ? my drive home after work has less traffic then the route he took.

  13. karel says:

    Graham,
    Flame Tree’s performance at the weights in that race was higher than any of the other runners, and comes out (about) 5 higher than Kelpie and (about) 10 higher than Elusive Fortune and Kathleen.
    Poor old Flame Tree? Not quite.

  14. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Turfentein…..The slow pace turned the race into a sprint at the 400 and the front runners died a death at this point, and I don’t see how the MR helps in any way with races like this ? it only confuses me now ( how does anyone know really ? ) Border line was well ridden and Flichity was too far off the pace to win but flew up. Yeni timed his run well and he knew what he had, I expect he will be stooped making it 3 in a row ? Emily did everything right but was always 2 lengths off so do you bring her down or does Jacko go up ? I think Circle was a victim of her own demise. So did the top weights show their class or were they allowed to have an easy comeback race ? The slow pace does make this race difficult to assess going forward…. The Matchem was upside down ! New World used the best pace horse in the world to win this, very clever ride. Search Party loved the tow and bought a nostalgic tear to my eye but will he improve further at his age. ? he wont if he is penalised. Under cover tried to do it all and will be horribly fitter after this race, so should be safe. African had the worst draw and was off the pace but the path down the inside was a tough one as well ( clever ride ? ) so should avoid any penalties. Pleased to meet you will now be a nearly horse. He will be given a penalty, same with Search Party. I wouldn’t but they will. New World will deservedly get lumped ( the new tactic is frightening !!! ). Sacred Arrow ran out of gas but will be a force with another run or two at this MR but I suppose it will not work like that. So the main principals of both races will be given higher ratings to confirm the good runs ( except African). Personally I would leave the rest alone as I dont see any justification either way if they run in the right races against the right horses ( sounds like divisions)…..I must say everyone did well with the selections….however they got there. Thats my take….

    1. karel says:

      Graham,
      To put your post in perspective (you worry too much!), this is from the official handicapper’s press release:

      • Matchem Stakes (Grade 3) – 5 October 2019

      ONE WORLD remains unchanged with a rating of 127 after he made a winning seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Matchem Stakes over 1400m at Durbanville on Saturday. Here, fourth placed PLEASEDTOMEETYOU was used as the line horse, and by rating the race this way runner-up SEARCH PARTY and 7th placed SACRED ARROW also run to their marks. As such, their ratings also remain as they were.

      In fact, the only change made for this race was to the rating of solitary three-year-old AFRICAN WARRIOR, who had no luck in running after starting from a wide draw. His eye-catching effort sees him going up from 112 to 115.

  15. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    I saw…So they got to African Warrior, nice try Keegan. You are right, I do…but I am happy ! The season already looks good. New World running off the pace could open up other doors and I can’t wait to see African Warrior in clear air…..

  16. Graham Hurlstone-Jones says:

    Difficult to explain that to non horse people….they really think the best horse wins.

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