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2020 Durban July Tips - South Africa's chief handicapper runs through the field

23 Jul 2020
Jon Vine 23 Jul 2020
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  • South Africa's chief handicapper, Lennon Maharaj talks punters through the Durban July field
  • He questions the progress three-year-olds have been able to make this season
  • Maharaj also explains why horses towards the top of the weights have a distinct advantage
  • Read his quotes and the horse he feels is "clearly on an upward trajectory"
durban july handicap
Durban July (Getty)

South Africa's chief handicapper, Lennon Maharaj looks through the runners in Saturday's feature race and provides his 2020 Durban July tips.

When it comes to the Durban July, South Africa's most famous handicap race, punters will listen to as much advice as they can. Who better, then, to run the rule through the runners in Saturday's renewal than the best handicapper in South Africa?

Lennon Maharaj spoke to VodacomDurbanJuly.co.za's David Thiselton earlier this week, providing punters with an excellent insight into the weights this year's Durban July entrants have been given.

2020 Durban July Odds

Rainbow Bridge5.5
Do It Again8.0
Got The Greenlight9.0
Bunker Hunt11.0

*Odds taken from sportingbet.co.za on 23/7/20*

2020 Durban July Tips - The Handicapper's Guide

First up, Maharaj discussed the three-year-olds, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has effected their weighting.

“There is little question that Covid-19 and the National Lockdown have impacted on the development of the three-year-olds’ Merit Ratings.." Maharaj said. 

"Last season Soqrat ran second in the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queens Plate at WFA terms behind Do It Again providing handicappers with a good yardstick."

"This season it was not until the Daily News 2000 victory of Got The Greenlight that the best middle-distance horse of the crop was known. I have more questions than answers about the three-year-olds this season and the July will provide the answers."

With clear reservations about the three-year-old crop, Maharaj then turned his attentions to the older horses, and told punters how he would go about finding the one best handicapped.

“Imagine a line graph based on the MR profile for each runner in the July. You will find that all horses good enough to participate would have been and may still be on an upward MR curve but the more exposed among them might now have reached their peaks and have flattened curves."

"In theory if all the July runners are weighted to finish in a line, with the exception of the horses under sufferance who are still behind the line, then surely the smart money should be on the horses that are weighted to finish in the line but with room for improvement i.e those who are still on an upwards trajectory or who are perhaps under handicapped."

"Statistics clearly show that the top weight band outperforms all other weight bands in ordinary handicaps where the weight spread is from 60kg to 52kg. The July weights favour the top weights more than that due to the 7 kg spread to the bottom weighted male (53kg) and 8 kg spread to the bottom weighted female."

do it again durban
Do It Again bids for a third-straight Durban July. (Getty)

Maharaj then spoke about several of the main runners individually, assessing their chances of success.

"Rainbow Bridge is in the form of his life and was ridden more positively when producing an eye catching second in the Sun Met, beating the rest of a high quality field including Hawwaam by more than 3,5 lengths and more. There is absolutely no questions about his class and having implemented these positive tactics he may still be on the up. He will have to produce a 135 performance to win."

"Last year’s champion Do It Again has been beaten four times in a row by Rainbow Bridge this season but did produce a better effort in the Gold Challenge. Is he back to his best? A 134 or better performance is not impossible for this champion."

"Vardy is a class horse with incredible acceleration. Will he be as effective over the 2200m and how will he cope if the race is run at a fast pace? Can he produce a 135 performance over this trip?"

"Soqrat is a muscular, classy horse whose latest run was encouraging. At his best he is quite capable of a 134 performance."

"Twist of Fate’s rating has risen to 129. He has run close to Hawwaam on several occasions and would have received 3,5kg from Hawwaam had the latter participated. Was he undone by the slow pace in the Gold Challenge?"

"Bunker Hunt may have some stamina doubts but possesses great acceleration and has run with the best in the land. What is your assessment of his Drill Hall win?"

"Tierra del Fuego also has form with Hawwaam and may still be on the up. The race doesn’t end there and we haven’t even touched on other factors such as pace.”

Maharaj finished off by discussing current Durban July favourite Belgarion, and it sounds like the nation's chief handicapper fancies the favourite's chances.

"Belgarion should be outright favourite for the July. His official rating of 119 is only due to a specific condition of the WSB 1900, in which he achieved a 122 rating, so he is under handicapped. We could have weighted Belgarion off his achieved 122 rating as this is permitted by the conditions of the race, but we opted not to break precedent."

"Belgarion is clearly on an upward trajectory. He has a winning attitude and is in theory ahead of the Handicapper. The fact is that we don’t know how good he is or whether he will cope with the rise in class in the July. However, he has a theoretical edge, especially if you believe that the other runners have reached their peaks."

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