Computaform presents followers with an average merit rating for each race which is very useful in determining the strength of the field. The higher the average the stronger the field, so one might find a horse who performs well in lower rated races but a massive rise in the average merit rating sends out a warning that he could battle to perform to the expected higher level.
Rainy Day Blues contested a MR 82 Handicap last time and was beaten into second place by Milla’s World, who looked to have massive room for improvement. Joey Soma’s charge gave 7.5kg to the winners and was coming back from a short rest so it was not a bad effort.
Today at the Vaal he contests a MR 86 Handicap over 2000m and although he carries 2kg less than last time, he is up in class. Last time the average merit rating was 71 – this time it is 77.
However, the four-year-old son of Western Winter should have come on quite well since that last race and as he has won over the course and distance one can assume the extra 200m on this occasion will be no problem.
Rainy Day Blues has been ultra-consistent of late and in his last six starts has won three and finished second on the other three occasions. He is reunited with jockey S’manga Khumalo who has already had some success aboard Rainy Day Blues. They are well drawn at No 3 and with no obvious dangers, could be very hard to beat.
This time the opposition is highly exposed. There are no runners who are expected to improve lengths and in the case of Gentleman Only, Charanga, New Fort and Lord Windsor, are all under sufferance. Charanga shows good form but once again a glance at the average merit ratings show he has been racing in fields with averages between 60 and 65. When he ran in a field with an average rating of 70, he finished unplaced, although in fairness that was his first attempt at 2400m.
Lord Windsor beat Stebbins last time and the runner-up was second in the Listed Derby Trial on Saturday although well beaten by Bankable Teddy. However, all of his races have been in company where the average rating has been in the early sixties.
Two-time winner Africain has shown significant improvement in his two runs since his merit rating has come down. It was once a 83 but he is currently racing off a 74 rating and is running well. He has also built up a good rapport with Craig Zackey.
The five-year-old stayed on well under 59kg in finishing a 2.75-length third in a MR 80 Handicap at the Vaal over 1600m and then a 2.80-length fourth in a MR 85 Handicap over the same course and distance.
The gelding should be involved in the finish again as he has shown a liking for today’s venue where he won once and was placed five times in six starts. He also has a win over the course and distance to his credit.
Smart Mart is another who has run against stronger but was unable to perform at his higher merit rating. That has started to drop marginally and has come down from 88 to 85. He improved slightly in blinkers last time and needs to be included in all Trifectas and Quartets.