2019 Stars Of Africa

Charles Faull previews the Vodacom Durban July Field

2017 Vodacom Durban July finish

The Vodacom Durban July – A wild and volatile business

Racing is a wild and volatile business and rightly so – horses are wild and volatile beasts – but it is never wilder, nor more volatile, than the annual Vodacom Durban July.

As everyone knows, just about anything can, and usually does, happen in Durban’s flagship race.  No matter how prepared you think you are, the first afternoon in July always manages to upend the tables and spring a surprise, because the July plays by its own rules.  It is a handicap and the track, the going and any number of factors can be relied upon to bedevil the result, but they do say one should not come looking for sanity where dreams and horses meet.

It is a particularly exciting field of horses that will face the starter at 16:20 on Saturday, 6 July and we consulted the Form Organisation’s Charles Faull for his thoughts.

Over To Charles

Charles Faull (photo: Form Organisation)

Charles Faull (photo: Form Organisation)

This year’s July field is exceptionally strong.  There is not a single horse who could not be rated a ‘scratch’ performer or better.

The analogy to golf here is that a scratch player is someone who, on average, goes around a rated course on par (0).

Among the many people who play golf, scratch players are a rarity.

Those who regularly beat par for the course are plus (+) handicaps.  Those who, on average, perform below par are minus (-) handicaps.

In all national championships, every player is a scratch handicap or better.

After nearly half a century of assessing racing form and pedigree, I think I can state that 99% of horse races are won by the best handicapped horse, not the best horse or the best ridden horse.

In other words, the form analyst needs to assess current merit and offset the weight each horse is assigned.

Another very important point when you have horses that are still maturing against mature horses, one needs to always be mindful of what is called the WFA allowance.

The Three Year Olds

In this year’s running, there are four 3yo’s (in human terms, 18 year olds).  A study of the full history of the July reveals that numerous ‘scratch’ 3yo’s actually improved between 12-15lbs from 3 to 4 (the strange number of the official 4lbs WFA allowance for the July is irreconcilable with the facts).  Examples for readers to consider are:-

Yataghan who improved vis-a-vis Elevation as much as 15lbs from 3-4.  Politician improved 12lbs from 3-4; and a good recent example is Futura who, from 3-4 improved 20 lbs from his 3yo to his 4yo July performance vis-a-vis Tellina.



A multiple Gr1 winner at 3, in dominant fashion against strong opposition.  Using the analogy to golf, he has rated potentially a +14 horse (14 lbs better than scratch).  From this must be deducted a WFA factor.

WFA progressions are approximations.  My observations over the full history of the July is that the average WFA improvement over 2200m from July to maturity (± May the following year) is 7lbs, so we give him a net rating of 14 – 7 = +7.

An added interest factor is that Hawwaam takes on his older brother, Rainbow Bridge, in this year’s race.

Twist Of Fate

He has won 6 of 15 starts and had Hawwaam at full stretch when 1,6 lengths second to him in the Daily News.  However, he did have an optimum, ground-saving passage that day, while Hawwaam raced a little wide and distinctly green.  Rating +9 – 7lbs WFA means a net rating of 2.


His defeat of Soqrat (subsequent Cape Guineas winner) in the Golden Horseshoe at 2 suggests a potential rating of +12.  Less 7lbs WFA = 5lbs net.

The July will be only his 4th start at 3.  Mike de Kock is confident that he has peaked at the right time as evidenced by an authoritative win against older horses under 57,5kg in Jubilee Handicap.  With bottom weight of 53kgs, he will be a popular choice with many punters.

Return Flight

From 12 lifetime starts, this filly has won 6 times, including two Gr1’s and two Gr2’s.  Her performances in the Fillies Classic, Oaks and Gerald Rosenberg Stakes are particularly meritorious and she should be excused her below par run at her first start at Greyville in the Woolavington.  With only 52 kgs, this superstar 3yo filly will test this field to the limit (as per Do You Remember in the 2014 Vodacom Durban July).  A rating of +10 – 5 sex allowance – 7lbs WFA, earns her a net rating of -2.

The Rest Of The Field

Do It Again

2018 Vodacom Durban July winner, Do It Again

His rating of +12 is based on his dominant 2018 Vodacom Durban July win as a 3yo.  He has won the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and Rising Sun Gold challenge from four starts at 4 and he had valid excuses when finishing 2nd to Rainbow Bridge in the 2019 Sun Met.

Rainbow Bridge

Rated +10 based on his Met run against Legal Eagle.  He now goes what should be his optimum distance of 2200m.  He comes into the race with top class places in the Drill Hall and Rising Sun Gold Challenge.

Head Honcho

His +9 rating is based on courageous wins in the Premier Trophy and his close 3rd in the 2019 Sun Met (finishing 0.75 lengths behind Rainbow Bridge).  A tough, courageous front runner.

Legal Eagle

Legal Eagle was 2,75 lengths behind Power King in the 2015 Vodacom Durban July.  He has gone from strength to strength at 4, 5, 6 and 7 winning over R12 million.  Won the SA Derby in fine style, so definitely will stay.  This horse commands the utmost respect under 55kgs.  Rating:  +5.

Lady In Black

Twice second in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes to champion Oh Susanna, she was beaten by Do It Again in the Gold Challenge when hampered inside the last 200m.  By a July winner (Dynasty) out of a daughter of Jet Master.  Her granddam is by July winner Flaming Rock.  Certainly bred to relish a test of stamina.  Never runs a bad race.  Expect another big run.  Rating:  +6 (+11 – 5lbs sex allowance).

Divine Odyssey

Since May, from 4 starts has won the Drum Star Handicap, Colorado King Stakes and run 4,25 length (7lbs) 3rd to Hawwaam in the Champions Challenge.  Placed 2nd at his only start at Greyville over the July distance.  Out of a Dynasty mare and bred to stay.  Rating:  +5.

Tilbury Fort

Rating based on his Summer Cup win over Dawn Assault.  This horse does turn in top class performances and as a winner of the Summer Cup must be respected for a place.  Rating:  +2.

Eyes Wide Open

Cape Derby winner by 1.75 lengths over Do It Again (who now concedes him 12 lbs / 10 lengths).  At 2, won the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes at Greyville.  At his second last start, he won the WSB 1900 at Greyville which has proved an important trial for past July winners (Java Head, Lightning Shot, Power King, etc).  By July winner Dynasty, he traces to Paul de Wet’s famous mare Miazzina, granddam of July winner, Beau Art, and should definitely appreciate this extra distance.  At his best, will be hard to beat at the weights.  Rating: +5.

Made To Conquer

Very reliable, stays well and always runs a good race at Greyville.  Part of the Snaith trifecta in 2018 and must be considered for all exotics.  Very game.  Bottom weight.  One of three runners by Dynasty.  Rating:  +2.

Roy Had Enough

Found a big finish to outrun a good field over 2400m at Scottsville to win the Track and Ball Derby, has won 6 races at Greyville and is another in a very strong Vodacom Durban July field that must be respected.  Rating:  +3.


Judged on his Sun Met form, this horse has the likes of Rainbow Bridge and Do It Again well held at the weights with a 7kg (10 length) pull at the weights for 3,5 lengths.  He was running on strongly when close up in the WSB 1900 and Cup Trial 1800m, both short of a true test for a classic (2000 – 2600m).  A son of Twice Over.  Include in all exotics.  Rating:  +4.


Should have beaten Eyes Wide Open when 0.6 length 4th in WSB 1900, after being hampered by Orpheus in the early stages.  Gave a 13lb beating to Regal Graduation in a Pinnacle mile at her final prep.  Real Graduation was fresh from a top class run under 60kg in the Syringa Handicap.  By Western Winter, dam by Dubai Destination, out of a full sister to Fort Wood.  Won 2200m Winter Oaks as a 3yo and has peaked at exactly the right time.  Big runner here.  Rating:  +1 (+6 – 5lbs sex allowance).

Miyabi Gold

By Silvano out of a Western Winter mare out of a Del Sarto mare, this top class filly is bred to improve over this extra ground.  2,25 lengths fourth to Oh Susanna in the 2018 Woolavington (over 2000m) and then won the Gold Bracelet (2000m at Greyville).  Conservatively campaigned.  Rating:  +1 (+6 – 5lbs sex allowance).


Proved herself to be a filly of the highest class when going down a neck to Running Brave in the Empress Club Stakes.  Caught the eye when finishing 1 length behind Eyes Wide Open in the WSB 1900.  Enough evidence in female line to suggest that this extra will bring out the best in her.  Rating:  +1 (+6 – 5lbs sex allowance).


Second in 2019 SA Derby, beaten a length by Samurai Warrior.  In the Champions Challenge and Daily News, his last two starts, he was beaten 6 lengths and 7.75 lengths respectively by Hawwaam.  A 3kg (6,6lbs) pull with Hawwaam suggests that he is up against it here, but a very strong pedigree earns him respect for minor money, should he get a run.  Rating:  +2

Punting Puzzle

To summarise, quartet punters face a demanding challenge as a case can be made for every runner to finish in the money.

Suggested best outsiders

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open, Fresnaye, Divine Odyssey, Doublemint, Lady In Black, Miyabi Gold (all top-class 4YO’s who are well in at the weights).

If one reads the Stipes reports for the last 10 Vodacom Durban Julys, one will appreciate that on average 30% of the field will be baulked, bumped, wide, etc – all unpredictable unknowns, making the task even harder.  Pace and luck in running are always deciding factors.

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