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El Picha Couldn’t Do It…

The gutsy Argentinian-bred gelding's third bid failed

El Picha won the Vodacom Durban July twice in 1999/2000, but if he were to race against the most recent back-to-back winner, Do It Again, who would come out on tops?

Watch El Picha’s win in 1999 and Do It Again’s win 20 years later in 2019, side-by-side to find out.

Do It Again bids to become the first horse in history to win the Vodacom Durban July 3 times, something which El Picha attempted, but failed on his 3rd attempt in 2002.

  • Back-to-back Winners of the VDJ

Campanajo – 1897/98

Corriecrian – 1907/08

Milesia Pride – 1949/50

El Picha – 1999/2000

Do It Again – 2018/19

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14 comments on “El Picha Couldn’t Do It…

  1. mabaker says:

    Do it again is a very good horse, but not a great horse. If he wins the July this year giving weight to the others then it is a stark condemnation of the poor quality of horses in this field. El Picha was a good horse at best and he beat a very moderate bunch as well.

  2. Jay August says:

    Given the pace setup in the 1999 race would Do It Again have won that race? The faster initial pace in the 1999 race is what effects the final time in favour of El Picha in this vodeo head-to-head.

    The first 1200m in last years race was run in 75.68s and the last 1000m in 59.52s (my timings from the race video). DIA came from several lengths back at the 1000m pole so likely ran the final 1000m in ~59s, albeit from a running start.

    In the previous years race the first 1200m was run even slower in 76.70s and the final 1000m in 58.49s. Again DIA came from off the pace and likely ran the final 1000m close to 58s.

    Only a good horse can produce 1000m times such as these off a 1200m jog. His ability to sprint faster than others at the end of a crawl is what has always been his main asset in races, more so in SA where races are run too slow initially. This years Met was an outlier and run quite fast initially which caught all but two of the field out.

    Someone made the point some time back that Sea Cottage was more versatile than say Do It Again, but based on these times, Do It Again is no slouch himself over a sprint distance. He just has never been asked to sprint from the get-go and so we don’t know how good he may have been doing so.

    If they crawl again this year, and DIA finds his old form, he may just do what no other horse has ever done, win three July’s, although this time Vardy is just as likely to like that initial crawl, and he too has an ability to accelerate sharply off a low pace.

    Pace makes the race is always true but more so this year. Hopefully Rainbow Bridge has learnt from his last two starts, that making others gallop a little faster than they would like is the key to unlocking them.

    If any horse is capable of setting fractions in the July that would put most of the field out of contention at the 1000m pole then it is Rainbow Bridge. But will he take that risk and go that fast with top weight?

    Interesting race for so many reasons.

  3. Dean Bayley says:

    Fully agree with mabaker – they were and are good horses but will never be classed as great horses

  4. Wayne Fouche says:

    To the best of my knowledge Sea Cottage never broke a course record but was a great horse even though he only won the July once and that with the aid of a dead heat. IMHO he would have beaten El Picha and then returned to the start and beaten DIA half an hour later. Hell after all he came from 16 lengths back to beat a star field going away in the fantasy July!!!!(LOL)

  5. Jay August says:

    Wayne, Sea Cottage equalled the race record in the 1966 Queen Plate and bettered it in the 1966 Newbury St. Breaking course records for him was always going to be a hurdle as he raced from the back and depended on others to set the pace. He accelerated sharply within a given pace scenario, better than most horses in SA ever could.

    Course records are a function of conditions and initial pace and unless those are properly set up, the record is not touched. Horses do not respond to time as humans do. Jockeys and other horses are their signal for how quickly to run at any given point in a race.

    Sea Cottage’s failure to win the 1966 race has always been attributed to the shooting and his bump at the top of the straight but there is one other factor which caught him out, pace. That race was won in course record time – 128s (2100m) by top weight Java Head. When a horse comes from the back and they go fast (not overly fast) up front that horse’s ability to accelerate is blunted, even for the very great like Sea Cottage.

    If every race had been set up in exactly the way Sea Cottage liked I doubt he would have been beaten by any of the horses of his age. He was that good; but even pace and luck in running will undo the very greatest at times.

  6. Wayne Fouche says:

    Thanks for that info Jay. Now he is even more endeared to my heart!!!

  7. Cameron James says:

    Jay, I have a question to ask of you. What is the expected improvement of horses from 3 years of age to them turning four?

    For example Twist of Fate as a three year old carried 54.5kg in 2019. Now as a four year old he carries 56.5 kg in the 2020 edition.

    If this horse has improved then I think he will just about win the July. I’ve looked at his runs post July 2019 and has carried level weights with the big guns in all of the races he’s run. He’s getting 3.5kg now which puts him right on top of the best. On some performances he’s had horses like DIA, RB, Hawwaam, Vardy, One World and Soqrat run behind him. Now he gets a 3.5kg weight pull.

    I suggested last week that Got the Greenlight had a big say in the July. I maybe jumped the gun after watching the three year Olds run dismally in the Jubilee using Leopold as the line horse, I now believe the crop is not strong.

    When I said the current 4 year old crop was weak, I was referring to the Belgarion’s and Bunker Hunt. I actually realized that Twist of Fate is still a 4 year old. Look at his run in the Politician stakes of 2019, he gave Belagarion 8kg and a beating, as well as shouldering 62kg.

    He’s run close up to the best and now as a four year old receives 3.5kg, surely the 20/1 has appeal. If he had received 3.5kg in the MET, would he have won it?

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this horses expected improvement from 3 to 4. Is it safe to assume that DIA and RB have peaked and reached their maximum rating?

    Also Domeyer is also a great plus, the guy is a talented jockey.

    Stay safe.

  8. Jay August says:

    Cameron, what is the exact question? Are you asking what the expected wfa improvement from July to July is, from age three to four? If that is the question then the current wfa for 3yo’s (2kgs) is the approximate answer. Approximate because all horses mature at different rates and the wfa table is an average expectation for the population.

    Therefore, Twist of Fate has retained his weight in the July – he is neither better or worse off since last year as his rating and that of the top weighted horse is in relative agreement. This year all that has changed is that he has lost the 2kg allowance.

    In last years July he was unable to make the weight pull with the older horses count, and he ran below his then rating (which is still his rating now). This is the problem with most horses when figuring out likely improvement in a handicap race versus a wfa race.

    The weight pull in kilos never quite works out in reality i.e. lengths. There are many reasons for this which are complex to explain. They include:

    1 – The handicap metrics in races likely under estimate the true impact of a winning margin. In other words, the higher rated horses are unlikely to have ratings as high as they should be – this is exactly the opposite of what everyone believes! You will see this all the time in handicap races where on average the best rated MR horses win more races in any 12 month period than all other horses, and that cascades down the ranking of MRs. Look back at one of my posts on this subject in April last year. This happens every year without fail. It happens in SA and the UK, and likely everywhere else although I have never examined the data in detail outside of SA and the UK.

    2 – Races in SA are often run at a sedate initial pace requiring horses to sprint at the end. Most horses are therefore running inefficiently in their races. The likelihood therefore is that the length/kilo metric is under estimating the true superiority of the winner over the rest of the field. The BHA in the UK were to trial a new metric for their all-weather racing starting in April, using finishing speed and overall time to vary the metric used to handicap or assess horses. This however is on hold given the lock down.

    3 – WFA is always an approximation of what will happen in a population of horses over time. While most horses will mature largely as the maturity curve predicts, at least 30% of the population will be further away from the approximation on either side of the curve i.e. slower or faster maturity. Figuring this out can be almost impossible in some horses while fairly obvious in others.

    4 – Horses also have experience gaps. What sometimes appears as WFA or maturity is simply a lack of experience at a certain level. This is a difficult concept to explain so I will stop this point immediately.

    I have just scraped the surface on the subject and it can become confusing and highly theoretical. My only advice to you is not to place absolute certainty on length/kilo factors the way you do. As a general rule I assume that only 50% of the apparent weight advantage will transpire in a race as expected.

    DIA and RB have almost certainly peaked in maturity, but they may be able to bear weight better than you expect for the reasons outlined in 1-4 above.

    I’d not define Got The Greenlight, or the 3yos, on a line through Leopold. Be careful taking one collateral form line as gospel and therefore the final word. If they all fail to hit the money in the July then there may be reason to express doubt but for now that is a leap of faith I am not prepared to take.

    Twist of Fate is super consistent although disappointing last time. He may luck a win in a big race like this but many things would need to go wrong with other horses for that to happen – 25/1 and I may be tempted but as you only expect him to win say 1 in 15 of this version of the July, don’t be surprised to walk away with nothing but a ticket for your effort.

    Lastly, in the last 20 July’s, nine 3yo’s have won, ten 4yo’s and two 5yo’s. The last 5yo to win was Pocket Power, and that was a dead-heat. Before that El Picha. Perhaps a 5yo is overdue for a win but you’d have to fancy the younger horses “doing it again”.

  9. Cameron James says:

    That was exactly the question I was asking Jay. Thank you for explaining it to me. I’m going to think about your above-mentioned comments carefully and revert.

    On a line Through Twist of Fate, is it possible that this horse is looking for further? On his last run, according to Formgrids, could the very soft going on the day have affected him? Lack of pace early in the race as well?

    Thanks again Jay, your input is always appreciated.

  10. Jay August says:

    “On a line Through Twist of Fate, is it possible that this horse is looking for further? On his last run, according to Formgrids, could the very soft going on the day have affected him? Lack of pace early in the race as well?”

    Presume you mean Twist of Fate affected by the soft going pace etc, although not sure which line you are referring to. TOF’s last looked like a nothing ride to me and the horse wanted to go faster. There was no step up from the previous Pinnacle second.

    In three of his last four starts he has sat just off Rainbow Bridge and not been able to pass him. Only the weight swing now offers any hope he will do better here but, if he once again sits off Rainbow Bridge then you must hope that RB folds. I’d not bet on that happening easily.

    RB lost his head-to-head with One World in the Queens and Met because that horse was slightly better than him. If TOF is to beat RB this time he will need to use his weight advantage and challenge RB on the lead and hope that the two of them can run the rest of the field out of it in the same manner as happened in the Met.

    As that is a risky strategy it probably won’t happen.

  11. Jay August says:

    Cameron, one further point. Adam Marcus has a real conundrum in this race with two horses of the calibre of Vardy and Twist of Fate. Both probably need different pace setups to maximise their chance of winning. I am glad it is not me deciding on the tactics to be employed because one or other of the two could be prejudiced by the tactics the other horse needs.

  12. Dev Govender says:

    I have a greater sentimental attachment to El Picha than DIA but my gut feeling is that DIA, at his very best, would have had the edge. I suspect that DIA is a very under-appreciated horse – with all the focus on his second July win last year, we seem to forget that he also won the Queens Plate and Gold Challenge and might well have won the Met had he not been so far out of his ground. That is serious form. I don’t buy the argument that he hasn’t beaten much, because, by that argument, you can start devaluing the achievements of many top horses from the past – a horse can only beat what’s in front of him and it’s unfair to pillory the winner if the opposition is perceived to be weak.

    The problem for DIA is that he went flat during the Cape season and those three poor runs completely tarnished his aura. (Interesting though, that Hawwaam gets a free pass and is still considered the best horse in the country, the excuses being that he was below his best in Cape Town, whereas DIA is not given the same latitude despite having beaten greater strength-in-depth fields during his career – but I’ll leave that to wiser heads than mine to decipher).

    DIA won’t win the July this year because it’s patently obvious that he’s lost the finishing kick that made him such a champion as a 4yo. At best, he can stay on into the placings, which would be respectable.enough.

    Because of my sentimental attachment to Rainbow Bridge, I was never quite able to warm to DIA – but he is one of the best horses to race in this country in recent years, was incredible in winning the July under 60kg, and I have the utmost respect for him.

  13. Cameron James says:

    Thanks Jay. Invaluable information. Will consider.

  14. Jay August says:

    Cameron, there are no certainties, only probabilities. Value emanates from the later and ruin from the former. TOF could win but you need to work out the probability of that happening and punt accordingly.

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