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One Fell Swoop, hidden, is touched off by Troppo Veloce in the Listed Betway Swallow Stakes but due to a race condition that limited placed horses’ merit rating increases in that race, he comes in potentially well-in in the Gr 3 Betwayu National Currency Stakes on Sunday at the Big T (JC Photos)

The handicappers are the target of much criticism in SA racing, but the most vehement critics have often not attempted to grasp the ins and outs of the merit rating system or considered the reasons why it is in place.

The system is not easy to apply in South Africa because the horse population here is not big and there are not many venue options, unlike England where the top class horses usually remain separate from the handicappers from day one. In South Africa the top class and those who are destined to be handicappers often clash in the early part of their careers and this can leave certain horses in no man’s land i.e not quite good enough to be competitive at the highest level and too high in the merit ratings to be placed easily.

But something probably unique the handicappers also have to put up with here are the conditions attached to certain races, which make it virtually impossible to handicap the population accurately.

This was seen recently when Barbaresco finished a close second to the 121 rated Main Defender in the Gr 3 Got The Greenlight Stakes, a race which carried a condition that the winner could not incur more than six points and placed horses could not incur more than three points.

Barbaresco was thus raised three points to 94, while the horse he beat by 3,25 lengths was raised three points to 98.

Had they subsequently met in a handicap, Hotarubi would have been 2kg worse off with Barbaresco despite having been beaten easily by him.

The same anomaly now happens on Saturday in the Gr 3 Betway National Currency Sprint.

In the Listed Swallow Stakes over 1160m, which is a level weights race for three-year-olds plus penalties, there was once again a condition that placed horses could not get more than a three point merit rating increase.

As it happened the Tony Peter-trained 96 merit rated runner up One Fell Swoop beat the Brett Crawford-trained third-placed Cullinan Blue by 0,80 lengths at level weights.

They were more than five lengths clear of the 95-rated Moving In.

One Fell Swoop was duly raised three points to 99 and Cullinan Blue was raised three points to 106.

The pair now clash in the Gr 3 Betway National Currency Stakes over 1100m on Sunday at Turffontgein Standside and Cullinan Blue, despite having been beaten 0,80 lengths by One Fell Swoop, is now a whopping 4kg worse off with him!

They are up against the potential superstar Lucky Lad.

The latter is officially the best weighted runner, but he nevertheless has to concede lumps of weight to the opposition and has not run for seven months.

One Fell Swoop is no doubt the value being potentially many kilograms well-in, just as Barbaresco was when cruising to victory in a handicap on February 10. In early prices she is as big as 5/1, although on the downside she has a low draw of three, which can sometimes be a disadvantage down the Turffontein Standside straight.

The race conditions have good intentions i.e to ensure that plenty of runners are entered without the fear of being severely punished for finishing close to a good horse.

However, it sure makes it difficult for the handicappers … and it does provide for some betting opportunities for sharp amateur handicappers.