Jack Milner: The whole concept of merit ratings is to keep a horse competitive. Some runners have one superb performance which sees their ratings climb disproportionately to their ability and one just has to wait until that rating falls enough to make them competitive again.
That is the case with Amsterdam. He ran the race of his career to finish second behind French Navy in the Grade 1 SA Classic over 1800m at Turffontein and that saw his merit rating go sky high.
He has not been able to perform at that level since but from October we have seen his merit rating drop significantly. In February last year he was racing off a rating of 104, but when he lines up at the Vaal on Tuesday in Race 6, a MR 80 Handicap over 1600m on the Outside track, he will be racing off a merit rating of 81. In actual terms that means a drop of 11.5kg but most importantly, it allows the horse to run in lower rated handicaps.
This will be the lowest rated opposition this son of Windrush has raced against since his post-maiden win. He is also looking more and more like a potential winner as he has been most competitive in his last two races. Two runs back he finished a 3.25-lengths fourth behind Front Rank and followed up with a 4.25-length third behind talented Al Sahem, giving Sean Tarry’s charge 5kg.
He had all of Imperial Gold, Urgent Fury and Counterstroke behind him and he is weighted to beat all of them again. Mike Azzie’s charge has had one race over the course and distance and it was a winning run. In addition, Azzie has engaged in-form Craig Zackey to take the ride.
It is always foolish to ignore runners from the Tarry yard as they just don’t stop winning, so Hawaiian Sun has to come into the reckoning. He was touched off over 1400m at the Vaal last time by stable companion Yankee Captain and should go close, as should Imperial Gold who was only a neck behind Amsterdam last time but is 0.5kg worse off.
Urgent Fury was a short head further back but he is 1kg worse off with Amsterdam and 0.5kg worse off with Imperial Gold. However, he is reunited with Gavin Lerena who has a good rapport with this horse. He has ridden him four times for three wins and a fourth place.