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Digital Tools for the July

Oscar Foulkes July 5, 2013 Uncategorized No comments

In the old, paper-based days, the most important sources of Thoroughbred information were the Stud Book and the Racing Calendar. The former recorded the foals born over a designated period, along with their sires and dams, while the results of each season’s races were published in the Racing Calendar. As long as you had access to the books, all the information was available, but any research took days.

All this is tailor made for databases, accessed in seconds over the Internet, whether from computers or smart phones. Of course, when Charles Faull’s team at Form started digitising this type of information in the early 90s, Tim Berners-Lee had only recently proposed the World Wide Web, and first generation mobile phones were not yet on the scene. It took years before PCs achieved the processing power and storage capacity of today’s smart phones.

Over the past year I’ve been working with the Form team in creating several digital resources for horse racing, the most recent of which is the full record of the Vodacom Durban July, all the way back to Campanajo’s victory in 1897 ( – much of the history unfortunately switched off for maintenance at the moment). As you scroll through the results, you see that it truly is the ‘July’ handicap, with the biggest deviation coming in 2010, when the FIFA World Cup pushed the July out to the 31st.

A horse race – especially when contested by champions – is a dramatic event, worthy of a poet’s best efforts. But there is some fairly basic and inviolable science that fells the efforts of all but the very mightiest of equines.

Newton’s Second Law is as valid now as it was 300 years ago. Put simply, the weight carried by a racehorse has a measurable drag effect. This, of course, is the basis for the handicap. Since 1970, just three top-weights have won the July, which says something for the power wielded by the handicapper.

One of the most significant components of is the FMR (Form Merit Rating), which reveals some colossal performances by horses who never won the July. The mare Olympic Duel carried 57.5kg to a one-length third behind Spanish Galliard (54.5kg), Model Man (57kg) ran the three-year-old Bush Telegraph (49kg) to a length and a quarter, and any discussion about weight-carrying in the July would inevitably include William Penn who carried 26 lb more than Chimboraa when he finished half a length back in second. Or, how about Milesia Pride getting beaten a length and a quarter in 1951 when he carried 37 lb more than the winner?

With this merit assessment as a foundation, the team has also produced a mobile-based preview of the 2013 Vodacom Durban July, along with a complete race card of the day’s racing. Whatever smart phone you’re carrying – as long as 3G bandwidth is not overwhelmed at Greyville – you’ll have the entire day’s racing on your phone. Visit to get the inside track on all the July Day action.

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