The merit rating system in this country has been jerrymandered to a point where it hardly makes sense anymore. As one trainer put it, races have become a handicap within a handicap and far to complicated for the average punter to unravel. Little wonder turnovers are down.
There are a myriad of examples but just one played out at Turffontein on Saturday. Camphoratus had no right winning the wfa Gr1 Empress Club Stakes given the ratings. Gr1 Sun Met winner Oh Susanna is rated 119, Camphoratus a lowly 95, a full 12kg inferior if you believe the handicap. Oh Susanna may not have been at her best but she was only beaten two lengths in a race where she was rated at least 10 lengths superior to the winner.
We can all say yes, “that’s racing” but try and explain that to the layman who will wander off to the casino where all that they are required to do is push a button.
So tomorrow’s handicapping meeting should be interesting and thanks to National Horseracing Authority CEO Vee Moodley’s efforts at transparency, we should get a full explanation.
But the ratings do sometimes work out as they did at Scottsville yesterday where the filly Twice As Smart proved too good for a host of promising three-year-old males. Wendy Whitehead’s charge was rated 4kg superior to another filly, Sweet Mary Lou, and 6.5kg superior to her nearest male rival Vikram but she proved a little too good for the opposition as she should have.
Stuart Randolph was confident enough to take his mount to the front early in the straight and scrubbed her to the line, only resorting to a couple of reminders as Captain Of Tortuga kept her honest.
‘Patience’ is Shane Humby’s second name. His horses arrive at work in the morning as if they are in a coma but they sure know what to do when they get onto the racetrack.
Mr Fitz is a late maturing son of Bold Silvano and he gave notice that he is a horse with a future as he scored a comfortable win in the fourth. Mr Fitz was in a useful field where pre-race commentator Sheldon Peters was hesitant to commit, not so Warren Kennedy who was hunting a gap a long way out with plenty of horse under him. Once in the clear Mr Fitz accelerated through to hold off the year older Dyno Man, Anton Marcus possibly wishing that he could have shed an extra 2kg to make the weight on Mr Fitz who he had steered to his maiden win.
The title chaser did not go home empty handed however, as he brought home the first two on the card.
Justin Snaith opened his winter season account in KZN with Somewhere In Time scoring a bloodless victory in the card opener but it was not all plain sailing for Marcus. Somewhere In Time is obviously a filly with a few temperament issues and went down to the start with a lead pony and ear-muffs and Marcus had his job cut out to keeping her focussed in the race.
“She was not supposed to run here,” commented Snaith, “but when the field cut up to five or six runners, I thought this would be a good R60k gallop.”
Tony Rivalland’s good form continued with the well-supported Fiorano storming home in the second. Great Stohvanen set the pace and was going great guns approaching the two furlong marker, but once Marcus released the brake Fiorano won with plenty of daylight to spare.
Barring accidents, Luke Ferraris should be something of a shoo-in for the apprentice championship. He is a polished rider and all his skills were on display as he produced Tripple Z with a telling late run to deny Marcus a hat-trick, Spring Fling edging out long-time leader Astral Flight.
Alderman Rob Haswell was one of the umpteen thousands in the crowd watching the US Masters at Augusta and Cumulus will have paid for some of his travel expenses as Natie Kotzen’s runner took full toll of the absence of ante-post favourite Woodstock Festival.
By Andrew Harrison