Debut Winner Rating Theory Explained

Handicappers can't be blamed

Our often maligned handicappers are under the spotlight again after an impressive 3yo winner at Kenilworth last Saturday got hammered with a seemingly thumbsuck 92 rating.

Is this action not overkill and should they rather be erring on the side of giving the horse – and connections – the benefit of the doubt?

A 3yo son of Querari, the Andre Nel trained Pleasedtomeetyou hacked up to win his 1000m maiden beating four first-timers and two ordinary looking raced maidens by 3 lengths in a time of 59.12 secs.

In a report published on, the Sabine Plattner Racing trainer told Michael Clower:

“I think they have punished him (Pleasedtomeetyou) unbelievably and I am considering whether to appeal. I know that the time was almost half a second faster than the Pinnacle on the same day, but they should rate him on what he beat and four of those were unraced.”

Here’s that report as we carried it earlier this week

The trainer’s observations regarding the time is correct – the filly Angel’s Trumpet carried 53,5kgs and won the Pinnacle Stakes run later in the afternoon in a slower time than the Nel maiden winner of 59,60 secs.

But let’s put that into perspective and observe that the Pinnacle time was also slower than the 59,54 secs clocked on the same day in an MR 74 Handicap won by the now two-time winner Elusive Trader (carrying 58,5kgs).

Individual races – maybe sprints being the least likely – are run differently and Richard Fourie rode a particularly clever race on Pinnacle winner Angel’s Trumpet, who was returning fresh from a rest. He had her stalking the less than tearaway leader Al Wahed, and gave the field the slip at the 300m. She was ridden with the hands in the latter stages and won easing up.

So the raw time references may not be of any relevance. And this was confirmed as correct by an official of the NHA, who said that no credence was placed by their handicappers on time comparisons on the afternoon to reach their conclusions.

While the NHA’s Chief Handicapper Roger Smith was on leave, and thus unavailable for official comment, our research has shown that the handicappers didn’t exactly pull the Pleasedtomeetyou rating of 92 out of the air.

They applied an in-house formula usually reserved for early 2yo races, where the form is scant and the majority of the field are unknown quantities. In the race in question, the opposition included four first timers – only one of which was supported in the betting – and two raced maidens.

With this formula, they applied a designated rating of 75 to the ‘middle’ finishing horse and then ended up allocating the winner a 92 – the maximum in term of the guidelines and which translates to a nett 78 with the 14lb weight-for-age allowance.

We have been assured previously that no consideration is given to powerful stables, breeding of the first-timers or any other ‘extraneous factors or perceptions’ when assessing any race.

Our in-house handicapping team, who unlike the NHA, operate without any handcuffing, interestingly gave Pleasedtomeetyou a rating of 82.

They confirmed, that it was an extremely difficult one to rate, given the lack of form. They pointed out that the most exposed runner, All The Sevens, was having his fifth run, and ended up running well below (he was 13 lengths behind on Saturday) his career best (73) of 1,25 lengths off boom debut winner Charles on 19 June. The latter subsequently ran 6,50 lengths third to the promising One World in the Listed Langerman.

Just Thinking 

Phumelela have introduced on a trial basis to the end of November a rule where any horse winning a Maiden Plate in its first five starts will have to run twice in an Assessment Plate before being allowed to compete in a handicap race on the Highveld.

These plate races are supposed to assist the handicappers in making more informed decisions in arriving at merit ratings for horses who win within their first few starts.

But wouldn’t it make more sense to make those Assessment Plates a handicap instead?

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