The pace – where will it come from in the VDJ 2020?

PUBLISHED: 10 July 2020

Twist Of Fate (Liesl King)

Racing guru Jay August has been providing a myriad valuable stats for industryman to work with recently and one of his recent revelations might well have an impact on the pace in this year’s Vodacom Durban July.

August points out that the first 1200m of the 2017 July was run in a fast 73,4 seconds, which enabled Marinaresco to come from way off the pace to win.

However, he reckoned the slow opening 1200m of both the 2018 and 2019 July’s, 76,7 seconds and 75,6 seconds respectively, played into the hands of Do It Again due to his superior sprinting speed.

August points out that in a normal turf race the finishing speed for the winner would be around 102-103% where finishing speed is the final 400m average metres per second compared to the horse’s average metres per second for the rest of the race.

Rainbow Bridge (Liesl King)
Rainbow Bridge (Liesl King)

He goes on to say that in the 2018 July Do It Again’s finishing speed was an astounding 109%.

He also pointed out that Vardy had produced a high finishing percentage in the Gold Challenge when coming from last off a crawl to run Rainbow Bridge to a 0,90 length second.

So if Do It Again is back to his best he won’t mind a slow pace again.

Vardy will probably actively want a slow pace as he is yet to prove he stays this trip.

Rainbow Bridge and Twisted Fate, second and third last year, will need the pace to be quicker as they were unable to match the sprinting speed of Do It Again in the straight from handy positions.

Eyes Wide Open, Miyabi Gold and Camphoratus were able to produce good finishes from off that slow pace last year to get into the places, which is interesting as they will be carrying the same minimum weights. 

Of course not all of those who would benefit from a slow pace would mind a fast pace. 

Most top horses prefer a good pace, as long as they have the necessary stamina reserves, as their superior VO2 max (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can utilize during intense exercise) enables them to keep going while others are crying enough.

So where will the pace come from this year then?

The four key horses look to be Silvano’s Pride, Padre Pio, Rainbow Bridge and Twist Of Fate. 

The draw will also play an important role in determining the pace.

A natural front runner would probably not want to be drawn too low as this would mean he or she would have to use up a bit of fuel early to hold his or her position. 

Being drawn wider out gives the horse a chance to move to the front at a steady tempo, although if the inside drawn horses are rushing this horse will then have to step up a gear.

Nevertheless, Silvano’s Pride showed last time when comfortably winning the Grade 2 Tibouchina she has enough pace to lead over 1400m, so she should definitely have enough pace to lead over 2200m even if it is in a Grade 1 against the boys.

Do It Again (Candiese Lenferna)
Do It Again (Candiese Lenferna)

In fact she led the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 last year and won that too.

The point that will make her a dangerous runner in the July is that she was able to dictate in both the Woolavington 2000 and the Tibouchina. 

Punters often make the mistake of looking through a card and if finding a front-runner they automatically assume the pace will be good.

However, if that front-runner is able to dictate then it will likely lead to a controlled pace more likely to suit the leader and not as fast as the others will need or want. 

Therefore, as Silvano’s Pride is able to dictate, it must now be determined whether there are any in the field who will be willing to take her on.

Padre Pio is a definite candidate as he opened up a big lead in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000. He showed he was also able to respond to the rider’s instructions despite facing the breeze as he was cleverly given a breather coming up the hill. Visually it looked as if he was folding but instead he amazed many by finding plenty in the straight and finishing a 1,50 length second.

Of the aforementioned pair it is going to be a lot easier on paper for four-year-old Silvano’s Pride because off her 118 merit rating she sneaks into the handicap carrying the minimum weight for a female of 52kg. 

Three-year-old Padre Pio, on the other hand, will be 4,5kg under sufferance carrying 53kg.   

Rainbow Bridge will also be a candidate to lead. 

In last year’s Grade 1 Champions Cup over 1800m he over-raced when caught without cover and showed what a superstar he was by still winning the race cosily. He was thus always going to be interesting if taken to the front and in this year’s Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge over 1600m he showed that he was able to relax and dictate when taken to the head of affairs. However, he will never again be given as easy a lead as he was given in that race.  

Twist Of Fate is another who has been effective from the front before. 

Rainbow Bridge and Twist Of Fate would both want it faster than either Silvano’s Pride and Padre Pio, so the pace picture is most intriguing this year. 

Furthermore, there will be eleven runners in total carrying the minimum weight for their respective genders and those of them who are capable of being up there might want to force the pace in order to ensure the higher weighted more fancied runners have to carry those big masses. 

The annual pace question will be one of the debates emanating from the final field and draw ceremony next Tuesday.

By David Thiselton