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Handicappers – Stumbling From One Deadline To The Next

The operational process is flawed - reality to insanity!

It is time for the industry and the National Horseracing Authority to acknowledge that the process in producing ratings in South Africa is faulty, more so than the theoretical discipline of merit-ratings which is often the argument against it.

Jay August writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that having reviewed this past weekend’s merit rating changes he finds himself in a position where it is becoming impossible to justify the Merit Rating process from an allegation that it has become a giant calculator devoid of logic or introspection.

The ratings awarded after the Daily News 2000 are evidence of this.

All the failings of merit handicapping in South Africa are evident in the manner in which this race has been assessed. That I would have rated the race and the winner a mere four points higher may at first seem trivial, but those four points may as well be a great chasm over which the handicappers cannot leap.

Below this letter is a detailed analysis of that race and its ratings – see addendum.

In handicapping small errors are accretive over time and those errors repeated many times lead towards a self-destructive path which eventually requires remediation lest it render the entire process unworkable. The only remedial steps that have ever been attempted in South Africa are blanket increases in ratings.

Blanket increases are a blunt instrument which gloss over the underlying structural problems in handicapping and do nothing to fix the long-term damage wrought by the initial error.

To use a monetary analogy, the only purpose they serve is to inflate away a permanent problem for a brief moment, soon requiring more inflation until that tool itself is no longer viable.

Handicappers in South Africa are required to release their ratings for the preceding race day within 24 hours and for the preceding weekend on the Monday.

In addition to their tasks as handicappers they also frame weights at first entry and either do eliminations or aid in the process of eliminations. Mondays for handicappers are a period of great pressure. With great pressure comes potential error. That potential error will be most evident in the races that most count, the weekends pattern races.

By contrast in the UK rating updates are released once a week on a Tuesday.

In Australia ratings are released after 48 hours and for the weekend pattern races on the Tuesday following the weekend.

Handicappers in these countries do not frame weights or participate in the process of eliminations as intimately as they do in South Africa. The handicapping teams there are also backed up by data analysts, in-house in the BHA’s case and outsourced in the case of Australia.

In SA we have come to believe, wrongly in my view, that the critical thinking required in applying one’s mind to the rating of horses can all be done by a team of two senior and one junior handicapper, whilst simultaneously framing weights, eliminating fields and fending calls from trainers eager to understand their potential rating increases.

For a weekend crammed with pattern races, as has just passed, we expect all of this to occur within the confines of working hours on a Monday.

Our handicappers have neither the time for introspection nor the time to critically think about their discipline.

Instead they stumble from one daily deadline to another, working within an industry strapped for funds and requiring them to serve in multiple roles.

The checks and balances which catch potential errors in other countries do not exist.

Is it any wonder therefore that we find ourselves constantly in time consuming and unnecessary debates about ratings? Does the industry have time for these continual and never-ending battles over ratings?

It is time for the industry and the NHA to acknowledge that the process in producing ratings in South Africa is faulty, more so than the theoretical discipline of merit-ratings which is often the argument against it.

National Horseracing AuthorityBeing stoic and stubbornly defending this status quo will only drive a deeper stake into the heart of merit handicapping and cause more unhappiness and instability. Tinkering away at sub-optimal solutions which avoid fixing the process will serve only to create greater problems later.

Changing the deck chairs with new personnel will have no effect other than to appear for a short while as a solution. The faulty process is at the heart of the matter. It has always been so.

Various people at the NHA have come and gone in the twenty years the merit system has operated with much the same result from one year to another.

We cannot keep up this random walk down the rating path which takes us ever further away from reality and ever closer to insanity.

Either the merit rating system must be fixed and that means more time for deliberation and more checks and balances, or we must concede that the industry cannot afford such a costly process, and we must then find a cheaper, easier and more elegant solution.

Fundamental change has to be made, change that will stand the test of time. Patching the existing process will not resolve anything.


Discussion of the ratings of the Daily News 2000.

Last December Wild Coast ran in the Cape Guineas off a mark of 96.

He ran fourth in that race almost 4 lengths adrift of the now exported Kilindini. The latter was assessed to have run to a rating of 122.

The fifth horse that day Eden Roc was believed to have run to his rating of 114 and was therefore considered the line. By simple arithmetic, the case was made for a rating increase for Wild Coast from 96 to 114.

Such a large rating increase was a leap of faith about the progress of the classic crop at that point, one which I found aggressive, but one which could be considered only a difference of opinion as to that progress.

Having taken that leap the handicappers had (apparently) played their hand as to how they would rate classic races in future.

One therefore would have expected consistency to be applied in the remaining Classic races. The line in the sand had been drawn. Unfortunately, from there the discipline and landscape has become messy and incoherent. There are some reasons which mitigate in favour of the handicappers lacking consistency subsequently and they include:

1 – Kilindini has subsequently been exported and was unable to prove or disprove his rating, a rating which now stands as the best rating awarded to a three-year-old in South Africa in 2019/20

2 – Viva Rio the second in the Cape Guineas ran once more winning a Progress Plate and has not been since.

3 – Macthief third in the Cape Guineas has not been seen since.

4 – Got The Greenlight, the highest rated two-year-old, was targeted at a sales race early in the season and therefore missed the formative part of the season and is only now coming to the fore as the dominant male three-year-old.

5 – Shango having impressively won the Dingaan’s in a fast race, has not gone on from there.

6 – The top horses in the current crop do not exhibit the dominance that last year’s crop did, and they have not progressed in a similar manner. Although Summer Pudding has won seven in a row, and has been marvellously consistent, she has consistently beaten more or less the same horses by the same margin.

7 – The two-year-old crop from 2018/19 was not incorporated into the general population at the full 10 point increment made in August 2019, only 5 points, and so as a group their relativity to previous crops and the older population was broken. Not raising the juveniles by the full 10 points which would have been consistent with prior years set the current year’s sophomore ratings for catch-up relative to the older population.

Despite all this, Wild Coast has provided enough evidence and a collateral line from the Cape Guineas in subsequent months. While disappointing in the CTS 1600, he next time out won the KZN Guineas beating Padre Pio and Golden Ducat.

The handicappers were conservative in their assessment of this last race as the field was coming back from lock-down and the form was rightly treated with some suspicion. The same three were a much fitter and more reliable measure of their ability in the Daily News 2000.

Got The Greenlight confirmed his status as the best male three-year-old currently running in SA by winning this race, while Golden Ducat and Padre Pio appeared to step up from their Guineas form although not good enough to beat the winner.

Wild Coast in fifth beaten almost 5 lengths by the winner appeared not to have made any further progression from either his Cape or KZN Guineas form. Shango likewise seemingly made no progress in fourth.

Wild Coast – the right Daily News line horse? (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Wild Coast appears, therefore, as a solid horse to use as a line in the DN2000.

He has run fourth in his only other Grade 1 classic beaten by a similar margin. He has subsequently won a Grade 2 classic and has now run fifth again in a Grade 1 classic.

His form approaches something of a reliable line to be used in assessing the likely improvement in the Grade 1 DN2000 field.

He has also for the first time in a Grade 1 race faced the two top rated Highveld colts and his displacement from fourth in his other Grade 1 appearance to fifth here does not imply regression but rather increased competition.

In any case, three-year-olds consistently improve in this race and competitors in the D2000 have a solid record of subsequent performance in the same year’s “July”.

There is therefore no reason to be conservative or timid when assessing the likely improvement in the DN2000.

It is after all a Grade 1 race and is patterned to assess the likely improvement in the classic crop. It is also the last Classic Grade 1 race and should in theory provide the seasons best rating/s.

So, which Wild Coast ran on Sunday? Was it the horse who ran fourth in the Cape Guineas and who was rated at 114, or was it the horse who won the KZN Guineas and was rated 110? Or is it the horse who is currently rated 112? Either way Got The Greenlight’s win can be assessed against Wild Coast at anywhere from 120 to 124, while 122 would provide the mid-point and assume that Wild Coast has run to his current mark.

The handicappers, however, would have us believe that none of this happened. Rather they would have us believe that Wild Coast regressed in this race and ran to 108, some 6 points lower than his fourth in the Cape Guineas and 2 points lower than the KZN Guineas.

No reason has been advanced by them why this may be so, and we must therefore conclude that arithmetic played its role. Why then after taking the leap of faith on the progress of the classic crop and Wild Coast in the Cape Guineas, have they now flipped to the other extreme, by being overly conservative and pessimistic in the DN2000?

Was the winning performance in the Cape Guineas really 4 points better than the DN2000? If timidity or conservativeness were rational then surely the correct course of action would have been to be conservative in the Cape Guineas and to take a leap of faith about progression in the DN2000.

To add further salt into this wound allow me to reproduce the MR race ratings for the DN2000 for the previous three seasons:

  • 2019

1st – Hawwaam = Race Rating (RR) of 130 – all ratings adjusted for the plus 10

2nd – Twist of Fate = RR of 127

3rd – Copoeira = RR of 115

4th – Zillzaal = RR of 114

5th – Thanksgiving = RR of 111

Highest RR achieved by any horse in the season = Do It Again (136 = July)

Winners performance relative to the best of the season = minus 6

Fifth horse to best RR of season = minus 25

  • 2018

1st – Surcharge = RR of 122 – all ratings adjusted for the plus 10

2nd – Majestic Mambo = RR of 120

3rd – Tap O’Noth = RR of 120

4th – Do It Again = RR of 119

5th – White River = RR of 118

Highest RR achieved by any horse in the season = Legal Eagle (136 = Green Point)

Winners performance relative to the best of the season = minus 14

Fifth horse to best RR of season = minus 18

  • 2017

1st – Edict of Nantes = RR of 123 – all ratings adjusted for the plus 10

2nd – Al Sahem = RR of 122

3rd – Horizon = RR of 116

4th – Glider Pilot = RR of 114

5th – Copper Force = RR of 112

Highest RR achieved by any horse in the season = Whisky Baron (136 = Green Point)

Winners performance relative to the best of the season = minus 13

Fifth horse to best RR of season = minus 24

The best MR race performance this season was achieved by One World in the Sun Met – 135. The winner of the DN2000 is adjudged to have run 17 points lower than that performance while Wild Coast in fifth has been adjudged to have run 27 points lower than that rating.

The 2020 Daily News – worst of last four? (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

By comparison, therefore, this year’s DN2000 is adjudged as the worst running of the last four races. The winner is regarded as the worst winner of the last four. Is that reasonable?

It requires a struggle to agree that Got The Greenlight is at this stage of his career 5 points worse than Edict of Nantes or 4 points worse than Surcharge but that is what we are being told by these ratings.

Perhaps the handicappers have been guilty of ignoring the need to make good the 5 point disparity introduced on 1 August, but having shown a desire to do just that in the Cape Guineas it is not entirely obvious what the current race rating suggests other than an overly simplistic and conservative reduction of the race.

To conclude, I have now wasted well over an hour of my life writing this and on reviewing its contents I come to an unhappy conclusion that Merit Ratings in SA are too complex a subject to be distilled down to a Monday morning discussion and press release. I have not even touched on any other ratings.

The process and subsequent ratings are confusing for the racing public and the punter. The ensuing debates in public and private regarding ratings are the cause for much unhappiness in the industry.  These endless debates are counterproductive.

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21 comments on “Handicappers – Stumbling From One Deadline To The Next

  1. Jc lee ching says:

    A very Interesting article but must confess that I don’t fully understand e everything. Maybe Mr Jay August could be persuaded to publish his merit ratings of the top 50 horses in the country? It would assist punters to get a better perspective on these horses

  2. karelmiedema says:

    Haven’t seen any indication in your essay about whether the Daily News was a true run race, or whether any of the other races you refer to were true run. Your comparative ratings and arguments must be suspect then.
    That said, the official handicappers pay no attention to pace either.
    Post race analysis needs much more explaining than is currently the case – in that respect you certainly have a point.

  3. Jay August says:

    To answer Karel.

    If the handicappers have not the time to properly assess their ratings and consider them in some detail irrespective of pace, why then would they have the time to analyse pace as well?

    They are also not my comparative ratings, they are the handicappers actual race ratings in prior years. I would at least expect some discussion from them of how this years race compares to prior years and why the ratings differ as much as they do. Pattern races have some predictability otherwise why bother with the pattern?

  4. Jay August says:

    A further point on pace. Treating races as suspect from a pace perspective is fine in theory, terrible in my view in application for an official handicapper.

    The inference I draw from questions about pace and the falsity implied by pace is that one should either not rate the race or rate it low enough that it in effect it becomes somewhat irrelevant

    Taken to its absurd conclusion all rational participants would ensure that pace was slow enough in most races in order for the race to be treated as false or with caution, and therefore unlikely to incur penalty.

    I agree that it should be discussed and that it should guide something. Just what it should guide is the debatable question. We cannot even agree amongst us what constitutes a true pace versus a false pace, although all of us will have a stab at it, and very eloquently put forth our argument.

    As an amateur handicapper I can infer what I may from pace as I neither sell my ratings nor publish them. As an official handicapper every rating I impose on a horse drives future action and reaction from the horse and its connections. I would therefore have to be extremely careful about the signals I send to the participants in respect of pace and my interpretation of it.

    Now imagine adding the burden of proof on the official handicappers on a Monday about their interpretation of pace!

  5. Jay August says:

    You did indeed Karel and I chose not to comment because while your stab was deeply interesting it failed to answer the question I had raised previously which was; what are the objective measures of pace which determine whether a race is false? For example is a false run race at Kenilworth the same as a false run race at Turffontein with its 9m incline.

    So as not to appear dismissive; I did after reading your article consult my database of Phumelela sectionals which I had been accumulating over the preceding 10 months. I had to that point not consulted them at all as I had first needed to accumulate a large sample of data.

    After reviewing that data I came to the conclusion that the sectionals that Phumelela were producing were wrong and unusable, and therefore I was unable to use them to do what I intended. That led to me writing to the NHA and explaining the issues, which I presume ultimately led to the suspension of sectional timing.

    As I do not have a large database of sectionals or race sections to analyse and I am loathe to have to painstakingly compile such a database my attempt to validate your work remains open. Perhaps you know of a large database of race sectionals which I can consult – at least three years data would be useful?

    I am mindful that you have neatly steered me away from my intended points raised in my letter, and onto a long and drawn out discussion on pace. But this proves my original point adequately. We simply get into debates about ratings, their meaning, the correct way to interpret them and all the attendant problems that come from that long-winded process.

    And yet here we remain, expecting the handicappers to do this in 5 minutes.

  6. Cameron James says:

    Hi Jay, as always your thoughts are well appreciated. So am I reading this right, you believe that Got The Greenlight is under rated by the handicapper?

    So if you make him a 122 and with the 7kg allowance he will receive, he will just about win the July. If I’ve read this correctly, I more than agree with your analysis.

    Guess time will tell…

  7. PL.NEL says:

    Bravo Jay,, I really like where you are coming from. . The huge problem here is the fathoms stick.. and this one truly gets sticky because assessments on this platform has so many factors which is exactly why this business/sport is so fascinating. The mere facts is quite often thrashed by sheer will power from a source that has nothing in common with us.. BUT the basics have to stay constant and assumptions are assumptions. I would however like to see our top ratings not embarrassing us . On a personal note I do think DN winner will ho missing in July.

  8. Jay August says:

    Cameron, I’ll discuss the July separately at some point. One of the three-year-old’s is likely to take a large step forward in the July and it could be any one of the first four in the DN2000.

    I’d not get hung up on the exact rating for the 3yo’s going into the July as they have not yet exposed the limits of their ability against older horses. Ratings for maturing horses are a work-in-progress and each additional race adds an understanding of their true ability.

    Do It Again two years back showed that the order of finish in the DN2000 was of no consequence to the possible improvement in the July. Pomodoro did likewise in 2012.

    Also the sums we do on paper about weight and its concession, and how that is expressed into an adjusted race rating, are not replicated by each horse exactly as expected.

    Be careful, therefore, assuming that a 7kg pull will equate exactly to a 7kg difference in the race. It seldom works that way for reasons that are too complicated to discuss in a comment.

  9. Jonathan Harris says:

    Jay, if I understand your argument correctly, you are highlighting the constraints on the handicappers mainly regarding time and human resources. My question. Would alleviating these constraints be the solution if the problem is deeper. Dare I say systemic.
    I am a believer in the current MR system. However I do fear that a rigid approach in applying MR laws and principles is a problem. In my humble opinion choosing a LINE HORSE is many times subjective and can be the catalyst for many wrongly rated races. Choosing the WROBG line horse could prove to be catastrophic in both the long and short term.
    Consistency seems to be the main and sometimes the only criteria for choosing a line horse for rating purposes.
    Very little attention is paid to other conditions in the running of a race. Pace, for one is , VERY important. I am sure you are aware of ALL the other variables.
    What should be in their toolbox in judging races and what should they be lmited in, in exercising their role as handicappers.

  10. Jay August says:

    Jonathan, let me answer by stating that I am a personal friend of Lennon Maharaj who is the chief handicapper at the NHA and we have had many and still do have conversations on the discipline required in handicapping. He is no fool and has a depth of knowledge on the subject that often schools me.

    I know that the handicappers do, within the limits of their time, take pace into account, they do look at the running conditions etc. In regard to the latter I would say that Lennon is one of the few people I have spoken to in this game who has a proper understanding of how to read a race. You only need speak to him for long enough to understand that he has a particular talent in this area.

    However, from my vantage point, he and his team do not have the time to think about what they are doing. The team also thinks too alike and therefore they do not robustly challenge their own biased assumptions. When they do reflect on their work it is always with hindsight and too late to change anything. That exposes them to attack with their competency being questioned. It should not be this way.

    The NHA needs to answer the question internally why they have to frame weights as early as they do. That activity is ultimately what causes the knock on effects which require the handicappers to produce ratings with a speed and haste which allows for no introspection and no challenge before finalisation.

    All the factors you highlight should be deliberated over in some detail and the ratings thus awarded should reflect that deliberation. The resulting press release should also reflect the detail necessary to keep punters and connections adequately informed of the intricate thinking of the handicappers. This is a detailed process not something that can be done on a Monday in a few hours.

    The process of handicapping has a several intricate parts which can be summarised as follows:
    1 – the assessment of pace and conditions of running and how that has effected the result and outcome for each horse.
    2 – the identification of the collateral line in a race which allows for the “initial” assessment of the individual participants in a race.
    3 – an assessment of whether the rating derived from 1 and 2 should be regarded as true or not and whether any change is needed to the master merit rating.
    4 – the assessment of the race being assessed against all other races of a similar nature.
    5 – an assessment of maturing horses within a race and whether their maturation process is normal or abnormal, if the latter whether that is because the horse is an outlier or the handicap assessment is wrong.
    6 – taken the above into account, an assessment of how the current race fits into the bigger rating picture and whether the race should be reviewed and adjusted as a result.
    7 – a review and discussion of the above with an individual or individuals who are aloof from the prior process and who are not subject to the same cognitive bias that the handicappers may exhibit in framing their ratings.

    Allied to this is a review which should/must be undertaken methodically and at regular intervals which includes:
    1 – an assessment of the factors which are used in handicapping and how they either confirm the evidence or disprove it. Amongst these are length/kilo factors, wfa, pace analysis etc
    2 – an assessment of the results over the last n periods and how the current data either confirms the long run norm or whether it has changed, if the latter why that change can be justified.
    3 – an assessment of the performance of maturing horses in the current season versus similar horses in prior seasons and whether any bias or change exists in assessing the newer evidence.
    4 – an assessment of the population rating metrics for the current season, their development, and their explanation against the long term norm.

    This is clearly not a simple process and while some of the parts are intuitively done by the handicappers some are not done at all.

    The question that needs answering first however is whether the industry has the means to properly fund the discipline of merit handicapping. My suspicion is it does not and we therefore have a poorly resourced handicapping department with too few tools and too little time to make proper assessments of their work.

    If this suspicion is correct then perhaps we need to go back to something more mechanical for the lower end races, something like a race figure and progress system which requires not much thought to handicap, while at the higher end we continue with proper merit handicapping but with the additional due diligence required by the discipline.

    In practice this could work as follows – horses entering racing are subject to a progressive system which allows them time to prove their ability. Once they move beyond a certain point, either by triggering a next development phase or by expiration of time, they move into the merit handicapping phase and are assessed properly.

    This latter phase could be allied to the ratings the handicappers currently make for the better horses on the APC (Asian Pacific Conference) handicapping panel. This latter process has the oversight of an international panel and thus the discipline is already partly established.

  11. Jay August says:

    Jonathan, one additional point on pace. The subject is very much a greenfield at the moment. There are opinions on how to use pace to either adjust ratings or to view races in relation to pace.

    Simon Rowland is at the forefront of the craft in the UK/Ireland – see his analysis here of the upcoming Degby and Oaks for example – https://www.attheraces.com/blogs/sectional-spotlight/01-July-2020/saturday's-classics-at-epsom

    Until the lockdown intervened Stewart Copeland at the BHA was doing interesting work on pace and the interpretation of pace. Changes in how ratings were derived (the metrics) were planned for implementation from the start of the British flat season in relation to his work but the lockdown has intervened and I do not think that has progressed since.

    In the US the work Craig Milkowski is doing for Timeform is also interesting.

    Until there is an agreed gold standard detailing how pace should be used to adjust or interpret ratings it remains a work-in-progress.

  12. Jonathan Harris says:

    Jay, I am overwhelmed (in a good way) by the time and effort you took to replying to my contribution and questions. A big thank you. I am so much the richer for it. Your detailed and forward looking approach is impressive.
    I am sure their is a niche in the market for someone like you to extrapolate, analyze then publish necessary information needed for proper form study? Providing what current authorities cannot and alternatives to current available info. Just thinking.

  13. Michael Jacobs says:

    The debate about merit ratings and handicapping is never-ending. As is the annual upward adjustment of the population, so clearly our system is structurally dysfunctional How does the UK, Australia and other juridcictions do it differently and they have about 5 to 10 meetings a day!
    South Africa has clearly not mastered the system of merit-rated handicapping, so surely we should go back to a race-figure based system and let the punters work out their own ratings. Interest in Racing has declined over the years no doubt due to the complicated merit rating system, diabolical results, mediocre diet of boring racing, very few good horses racing every week and plethora of “unexotic” exotics.

    A race-figure system of sorts could revive this industry and bring the ordinary punters (who might have failed maths at school) back to the game.

  14. Jay August says:

    Michael, the UK has 14 handicappers and 4 back office data analysts. They understand that it takes some maths to make ratings. They also have a racing program which supports proper merit handicapping, while in SA we don’t.

    Australia has several State handicapping teams backed up by the analytical back office of Racing and Sports Pty Ltd. They also do not have merit handicapping, rather benchmark handicapping which is a hybrid of a race figure system and proper merit handicapping. Their top levels are constrained by the APC handicapping panel ratings.

    The debate is never as reductive as, they do it there, why are we not doing it here. It always has many facets which unless understood doom whatever solutions are being suggested to a new sequence of problem.

    The Australian model was arrived at in 2008 after unhappiness with their MR system. In SA at the same time we tinkered with the MR system and introduced guidelines which further destabilised our ratings and introduced more unhappiness.

    Race Figures worked in SA from the late 1950’s through to the 1990’s because the horse population was increasing rapidly and the system encouraged progress and improvement. Prior to that the racing model in SA was almost exclusively an arbitrary handicapping model as there were not enough horses to make racing viable without ability handicapping.

    You are correct that we spend to much time on this but simply going back to the RF system is not a solution, it is a cop out. Reducing all of racing’s ills to the introduction of merit handicapping is too simplistic.

  15. Graham Martin says:

    well said Michael Jacobs, I have been keeping on and on about bringing back the RF system for a long time but nobody is interested and nobody listens. At least the RF system created consistent form lines in all divisions from the lower divisions to the top! Only the very top class horses are able to run Classic to Handicap to WFA.But what about the lower division horses? What chance have they got with the way the Merit Rating system is implemented?

  16. Jay August says:

    Graham, you have many friends in the game who want RF’s back. I’d like that too actually as it plays to my cynical side. RF’s create so many mismatches that it is reasonable to know that punting them would create extra profits for those smart enough to spot them which despite all the clamour for RF’s will only be a handful of people.

    RF’s by their very nature kill off the average to below average horse. That is not what you are saying above but that is exactly what they are intended to do. They do that way more efficiently than the MR system.

  17. Graham Martin says:

    Do away with the so called “line ” horse for heavens sake! Scrap it! It should be confined to the Dust Bin! And I did’nt fail Maths, in fact Maths is one of my many hobbies!

  18. Graham Martin says:

    Thanks Jay, I must say that I enjoy all your comments and what you say makes a lot of sense! Your eloquent and articulate skills are always impressive! I would like to add to your most recent reply. You mention that the RF system by nature kills off the average to below average horse, but one thing is for sure,it does’nt kill off the average to below average punter! Whereas the Merit Rating system has chased many a punter away! The law of the jungle states that the FITTEST will survive. Favouring the weak by STOPPING the strong and the “everyone gets a turn ” mentality has been the ruin of the Sport of horseracing in this country I’M afraid to say! You are good with statistics, have you ever noticed that as soon as a horse’s Merit Rating stabilises and becomes consistent how consistent the form line of that particular horse becomes ( in most cases). Look no further than horses like Rainbow Bridge, Vardy, Do It Again, One World etc,etc. So why can’t the lower division races be the same? You did make mention of using the RF in lower division races which would be a step in the right direction! Now i’ve spent 45 minutes of my life on this essay but if I have to keep on keeping on then so be it!

  19. Jay August says:

    Graham, I’m reading your comment while sitting at a restaurant for the first time in months and am now deemed adult enough to do so!

    I had a good chuckle at your concluding comment, loud enough that I got some strange looks.You are quite eloquent and witty when you put your mind to the task.

    1. Editor says:

      Have to agree, Jay
      Didn’t think anybody would notice, but that was a sharp play on your original 🙂

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