Follow The July Favourite! Yeah, right…

July-day is always different from any other raceday

Calm before the 2003 storm - Dynasty canters down

Calm before the 2003 storm – Dynasty canters down

Massive betting pools are predicted for Vodacom July day – quartets, jackpot, pick six, PA, and of course the on-the-nose wins. Conventional wisdom has it that favourites win one in every three races, more than any other horse in the betting. It seems unwise then for punters to leave the favourite out of any of their calculations. Or would it?

July-day is always different from any other raceday, more so because polytrack races are now thrown into the mix.

Big fields, and no one giving in inch. Winning is everything. We thought it might be fun to look back at previous July-days, to see what happened in the major races on the card, and especially how favourites performed. Statistically a pretty meaningless exercise, of course – the sample is way too small for trying to predict the future. Let it just be some fun then, writes Karel Miedema.

 Vodacom Durban July (race 7)

articles_durban_july_vodacom_602294921A handicap race – well, sort of, as there still are conditions related to maximum and minimum weights carried, by age and sex. Merit Ratings were introduced in 2000, so before that year the dreadful Racefigure handicapping applied.

In the last 20 years, favourites obliged five times. Remarkably, the other fifteen races yielded just one second and one fourth place – favourites were unsighted thirteen times.

When the favourite didn’t finish first, the winners started at less than 10/1 eleven times. There were three winners at between 10/1 to 20/1. The only winner priced longer than that was Pomodoro, at 28/1.

Fancied horses, in other words, won sixteen out of twenty.

 Now for the exactas, swingers, trifecta’s and quartets.

Second placed horses were at 10/1 or less on eight occasions (including one favourite), between 10/1 and 20/1 four times, and over 20/1 eight times. The latter group included six at 33/1 and more (two of them at 55/1).

Third placed horses were at 10/1 or less on seven occasions, between 10/1 to 20/1 ten times, and over 20/1 three times, including 99/1 shot Forest Path in 2009.

Fourth placed horses were at 10/1 or less seven times (including one favourite), five times to 20/1, and eight times longer, of which four were 40/1 or more.

There has been only one year where fancied horses filled the first four places – 1997, with Super Quality (7/1), Golden Hoard (6/1), Shah’s Star (5/1) and Faralmond (7/2F).

Clearly, in exotics you ignore the no-hopers at your peril.

There were some interesting years.

In 2005, Dunford (20/1) beat Silverpoint (14/1), Eventuail (20/1) and Reveille Boy (12/1). That was the year favourite Rabiya broke down.

Big City Life - Vodacom Durban July

Big Cty Life wins July in 2009

In 2009, Big City Life (11/2) got the better of Zirconium (55/1), Forest Path (99/1) and Thundering Jet (70/1). The 12/10 favourite Pocket Power ran 5th.

Then there was the calamity of 2012, when Pomodoro (28/1) beat Smajemanje (55/1), Chesalon (18/1) and Eton Square (40/1), with 18/10 favourite Jackson nowhere. The quartet pay-out was R300.000, and Pomodoro’s win was the major contributor to a R300.000 Pick Six pay-out as well.

This year may be one for the favourites. No one in his right mind can go against Legal Eagle, who carries 3kg less than he should – equivalent to more than five lengths over the July distance. His last win in the Jubilee Handicap was extraordinary, in a very fast run race he powered away, the field disintegrating behind him.

One other runner to consider: the lightly raced Majmu, who might well be much better than rated over the distance.


Long priced horses filled the first four places in 2012, when 28/1 Pomodoro beat 55/1 Smanjemanje, resulting in a R300.000 quartet pay-out

Campanajo 2200 (race 3)

 This is a race run over the same distance as the July, intended for those who didn’t make the cut for the big one. The July Consolation, then.

Unlike the July this is a proper handicap, without additional conditions. The race dates back to 2001.

Interestingly, of the fourteen times it was run, the race time was the exactly the same as the July on two occasions, and faster than the July no less than four times – with the biggest margin last year, when winner Master Sabina ran the 2200m distance almost 2 seconds faster than Legislate and Wylie Hall. Such are the vagaries of pace.

In the fourteen years the Consolation was run, only once did the favourite win – Master Sabina last year, at 15/10. Five of the winners started at odds of longer than 10/1

Favourites have finished second once, third twice,  and four times fourth.

In a nutshell, favourites don’t seem to have a great record in this race – as you would expect in a proper handicap.

That said, eleven of the fourteen runners-up started at odds of less than 8/1.

Five of the fourteen third-finishers were at less than 8/1, and six of the fourth-placed ones.

 It seems you have to go wide in exotics, and not put too much faith in the favourite.

That favourite this year is Dynamic, who is time of writing is first reserve for the Vodacom July.

The horse to note here is It Is Written, a good (odds-on) winner last Sunday on KZN-breeders Day. His Merit Rating has gone up 2 points for that win, and (unlike Legal Eagle in the July) his weight went up accordingly – but he should still be highly competitive.


July Consolation 2014 – Master Sabina, at 15/10, becomes the shortest priced winner of the race. He’s also the only favourite ever to have won this handicap. His racetime was almost 2 seconds faster than the July itself on the same day

Gold Vase (race 4)

This race has been run over the years at Clairwood and Greyville, in the early years (and also in 2013) over 2400m, but also 2800m, and mostly 3000m (as is the case this year). Pace is usually hard to predict in races over ground in South Africa, and they often turn out false run.

The Gold Vase is not a handicap, although base weights are derived from Merit Ratings.

Higher rated horses are favoured by the conditions, as are fillies and mares who get a rather generous 2.5kg sex allowance (equal to more than five lengths over this distance, depending on how the pace pans out). Race conditions have varied over the years.

Favourites have won 5 times in the last 20 years, been second twice, four times third, and 3 times fourth.

That may suggest that using them as roving bankers is a fair approach.

Winners have started at odds of 10/1 or more just three times (10/1, 20/1, 50/1), but runners-up were at such odds a dozen times.

Fillies and mares haven’t often contested the Gold Vase, but this year there are two, Wild Ash and Roc ‘n Rose.

The favourite is Solid Speed, winner of his last three starts, and possibly still better than rated. Heart Of A Lion might bring the favourite’s winning sequence to an end, or maybe even Great Rumpus, who is 4.5kg better off for a 3 ½ length beating by Solid Speed over 2400m here in May and stays well.


Hot Ticket, at 12/10, the shortest priced winner of the Gold Vase a year ago. He tries his luck in the July this year, at odds of 55/1

Golden Slipper (race 5)

A race for 2yo fillies at level weights, most of them still lightly raced.

The official handicapper does not publish Merit Ratings for 2yo’s until the end of the season, keeping everyone in the dark.

Fortunately, Sporting Post ratings provide a suitable alternative to assess the youngsters.

There will be a full field of sixteen runners.

Favourites have won this race 6 times in the last 19 years, finished second 4 times, third 3 times, and fourth 3 times.

That may suggest that using them as roving bankers is a fair approach.

Long priced winners are not unusual in the race – Next Edition (16/1), Princess Sassi (33/1), All Afire (15/1) and in the last two years For The Lads (40/1) and Bilateral (50/1). Nor are second finishers – Resounding (14/1), Child Model (25/1), Veiled Essence (100/1), Fragrant Al (14/1), Felix The Cat (28/1), Along Came Polly (22/1). Long-priced third finishers include Queen Isolt (16/1), Lotti (25/1), Bold Ellinore (25/1), Kiss For Kate (16/1), Gypsy’s Warning (50/1), Spiced Gold (40/1), Six Blue Notes (25/1), Extra Zero (66/1), Masked Lady (25/1), Pine Princess (25/1). Among them more than a few who turned out to be top fillies later!

 On Sporting Post’s ratings this year looks one for the favourite, Princess Royal, with Frosted Honey the danger.

Long priced winners are not unusual in the Golden Slipper. Bilateral in 2014 was the biggest outsider to win, at 50/1

Long priced winners are not unusual in the Golden Slipper. Bilateral in 2014 was the biggest outsider to win, at 50/1

Golden Horseshoe (race 6)

 A race for 2yo’s at level weights with sex-allowance, most of them still lightly raced.

As was the case with the Golden Slipper, the Sporting Post ratings provide a suitable alternative to assess the youngsters, in the absence of the official Merit Ratings.

 In the last 18 years, favourites scored 5 times, ran second twice, third twice, and fourth 4 times.

Five odds-on favourites bit the dust, so the message seems to be to tread with care.

The list of long-priced winners includes Highborn (20/1), Tytola (14/1), Port Of London (20/1), Ndabeni (16/1), Forest Path (12/1), Copper Parade (18/1), Forest Indigo (28/1). Among the runners-up are Fort Danzig (14/1), Chardin (25/1), Shimmer And Shine (25/1), Kochka (18/1). Third finishers throw up Merit Badge (20/1), Play The Odds (14/1), Kings Cross (28/1), Sidestep (35/1).

As with the Golden Slipper, there should be a full field of sixteen runners.

Sporting Post’s ratings suggest a toss-up between Arabian Beat and Seventh Plain (will he get 1400m?), and then there’s Muwaary who might well be a great deal better than rated.

Odds-on favourites have a dismal record in the history of the Golden Horseshoe, all five of them going missing. Argonaut, in 2007, was the shortest priced winner of the race, at 14/10

Odds-on favourites have a dismal record in the history of the Golden Horseshoe, all five of them going missing. Argonaut, in 2007, was the shortest priced winner of the race, at 14/10

Garden Province Stakes (race 9)

One of South Africa’s important races for fillies and mares, run over a mile at weight-for-age. This year the 16-runner field includes seven 3yo’s. The score between 3yo and older winners is about 50/50, suggesting weight-for-age works.

Six winning favourites in the last twenty years, four of them odds-on, including Beach Beauty’s double in 2013 & 2014.

Long priced winners are not easy to find, the biggest odds coming from Final Claim (14/1), Lyrical Linda (14/1) and Outcome (33/1). Just four runners-up had odds over 10/1, but seven third-finishers were at 20/1 and over.

There’s a strong line-up this year, with Hammy’s Hooker, Same Jurisdiction, Carry On Alice (if she stays the mile), Inara and Jet Belle all having claims.

Out front - just the way she likes it!

Beach Beauty won the Garden Province in consecutive years, both times as odds-on favourite. The race looks a lot more competitive this year

Thukela Handicap (race 8)

To give the Pick Six and other exotics extra flavour, there is a Listed 16-runner handicap sandwiched between the Vodacom July and Garden Province.

Favourites have a good record, winning this race 5 times in the last fourteen years, finished second twice and third twice. They were mostly short-priced (between 13/10 and 3/1), while the field-size never got to sixteen (and five times was between 9 to 12 runners). There were longer priced joint-favourites (9/2 and 5/1) on two occasions, when neither produced the winner.

In the years the favourite went missing, winners were priced as high as 16/1 (twice), 33/1 and 40/1. Runners-up went as high as 25/1 and 35/1.

You’d expect such odds in handicaps. There are no shortcuts!

Sporting Post ratings might be of help, with Diamond King (lightly raced likely improver, and roving banker at nice odds), Kochka (coming back to best), Prince Of Orange (blinkered first time), and Arniston (winner last time out) top of the heap.

Then there’s Run Rhino Run who ran a good race (although unplaced) on KZN-breeders day, showing he’s back – attaboy, Laff!

2015-Vodacom-Durban-July (2)

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