AFRICAN NIGHT SKY
Ken Nicol: The official handicappers have been heavily criticised by trainer Mike de Kock on his website blog for what he sees as a lenient four-point Merit Rating adjustment for ruling Vodacom Durban July favourite African Night Sky – trained by Justin Snaith – following an easy win in the Cup Trial at Greyville on Saturday.
National Horseracing Authority Handicapping Manager Roger Smith was approached for comment and was happy to give some insight into the handicappers’ thinking.
Smith said: “When we looked at the Cup Trial, we used third-placed Platinum Prince as the line horse. We did consider using fourth-placed Head Honcho, but Platinum Prince has run a string of places in Graded races this season and is very consistent.
“In addition, neither Platinum Prince nor runner-up Crowd Pleaser have won for almost a year and we were reluctant to pick them up for placing when they are struggling to win.
“With regard to African Night Sky, the margin of victory was just under a length, which equals two Merit Rating points. We treated the margin as two lengths due to the ease of victory, and also the fact that he had to switch. His rating was therefore adjusted from 108 to 112.
“We do not practice retrospective handicapping, so whatever number he ran to in previous races is irrelevant in this instance.”
In the Jubilee Handicap at Turffontein on Sunday, De Kock’s horse Yakeen also received a four-point Merit Rating adjustment after scoring by a desperate short-head over fellow July hopeful Tilbury Fort.
De Kock contrasted the hard-earned nature of this win to the ease of African Night Sky’s – for an identical four-point penalty.
Smith had this to say: “We used third and fourth placed Arctica and Social Order as joint line horses. Runner-up Tilbury Fort would not make a good key as he had won his previous two starts since being gelded and is clearly still improving. Winner Ÿakeen is a young horse who has won four from six starts and is also clearly still on the upgrade.
“Äs a result, Tilbury Fort went up three points and Yakeen four.”
Smith also revealed that the NHA would draft an official response to some of the views expressed in De Kock’s blog and this would be released in due course.