South Africa’s Champions Season in KwaZulu-Natal will kick off in fine style at Greyville on Sunday, May 7, when some of the top horses in the country meet in the R500 000, Grade 2 Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes over 1 400m.
The final field for the race and those for the R600 000, Grade 2 Daisy Guineas and the R500 000, Grade 2 Daisy Fillies Guineas have been announced and all three events include exciting runners from around the country.
The super stars Marinaresco, Captain America and Sail South, head the 14-horse field under weight-for-age conditions in the Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes that traditionally opens the season and while they could well need the outing, they have the class to play major roles in the outcome.
The three followed the champion Legal Eagle home in the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate at the beginning of the year and being from the top Cape stables, they are sure to be in very competitive form for this race.
Among the opposition are the likes of Champagne Haze, New Predator and Bulleting Home from Gauteng and the Cape four-year-old Black Arthur that was one of the country’s leading three-year-olds last season.
The Gauteng Guineas winner Janoobi heads the 12-horse field in the Daisy Guineas and meets the Investec Cape Derby runner-up Zodiac Ruler for the first time along with the exciting East Cape Guineas winner Gimme The Stars and the first two past the post in the Byerley Turk, Africa Rising and Copper Force.
Gimme Six, Final Judgement, Sail and Dawn Calling filled the first four places in the Umzimkhulu over 1 400m at Greyville a month ago and will renew their battle in the Daisy Fillies Guineas with the extra 200m adding a new dimension to their clash.
The three races promise very competitive and exciting battles to set the standard for a thrilling winter season.
The announcement of the first 58 entries for Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event, the R4.25-million Vodacom Durban July, heralds the start of South Africa’s Champion Season, one of the most comprehensive thoroughbred racing festivals in the world.
The action-packed three-month feast of top-class racing at Greyville and Scottsville will officially get underway with the Independent On Saturday Raceday at the Theatre Of Champions on Sunday, May 7, and carry through to the end of July with about R30-million in feature race stakes on offer for the 54 races that include 31 graded events including 13 at the highest internationally compliant Grade 1 level.
The announcement of the first big-race entries has also triggered the early outbreak of the annual phenomenon known as a July Fever, the affliction that quickly spreads around the country as enthusiasts begin searching for the potential winner and the fashion-minded seek out their designers to create their eye-catching outfits for the day.
The pundits will be hoping for early signs of potential among the three-year-olds that compete in the Daisy Guineas and Daisy Fillies Guineas, the Grade 2 events that kick off the season on May 7, and will follow their progress with others of their age that take to the stage in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and Grade 1 Woolavington 2000.
Emerging from these races could be the stars of the future that, together with top performers from the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge and Cup Trial, could take on the best in the country in the blue ribbon event on the first Saturday in July.
In between, at the end of May, the thunder of hooves will be heard at Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg when the sprinters go to battle in the four Grade 1 races over 1 200m headed by the R1-million Tsogo Sun Sprint.
Then it is the big one and some 50 000 people will flood the Greyville Racecourse for another “July Day extravaganza” and the country’s totes will be in perpetual motion as the bets on the 12-race meeting rocket up to massive levels in the region of R125-million. This will be a day of anticipation, excitement, entertainment and fashion unmatched in South Africa.
The Grade 1 Mercury Sprint will provide the excitement during the breath-catching period in mid-July before the season closes out with the recently announced Gold Cup Festival of Racing over the final weekend of July. The Champions Cup (Grade 1) will headline the 9-race programme on Saturday 29 July and the eLan Gold Cup will be featured on a 10-race programme on Sunday 30 July. The Festival will also incorporate a Gala Dinner on Thursday evening 27 July and golf-day at Royal Durban on Friday 28 July, while music and entertainment will feature prominently over the two days of quality racing.
From start to finish, it will be a rollercoaster ride of thrilling action – a festival of racing like no other in Africa. Don’t miss it!
By Richard McMillan
Years ending in seven have always produced significant happenings in Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event, the Vodacom Durban July.
The first running of the great race was in 1897. The winner Campanajo became the first dual winner of the big race the following year.
In 1907 Corriecrian was the winner and became the second dual winner a year later.
In 1917 the biggest field the race has ever had, 33 runners, faced the starter and Fanous won at odds of 25/1, collecting a £1000 stake prize.
1927 was the last time the race was run under its original name of the Durban Turf Club Handicap, before it was renamed the Durban July Handicap. It was won by 4/1 favourite Hussein and winning jockey Granville Gorton went on to become a successful bookmaker and founder of Noreen Stud, home of the twice champion sire Drum Beat.
1937 saw one of the biggest upset result as 40/1 shot Ballyjamesduff beat home 50/1 chance Ygor.
In 1947 the 3/1 favourite Brookhill gave the legendary jockey Harold “Tiger” Wright his second July victory. Wright went on to win a record-breaking four Julys, but this record has been equaled by three current jockeys Anton Marcus, Anthony Delpech and Piere Strydom.
1957 saw a rare win for a three-year-old filly, Migraine winning by a short-head.
The 1967 remains the most celebrated July in history as the immortal Sea Cottage just got up to dead-heat with the lightweight Jollify. Sea Cottage still had the bullet lodged in his leg from the shooting incident which occurred three weeks before the previous year’s July and it was also the first dead heat in the history of the race.
In 1977 Syd Laird, trainer of Sea Cottage, was expected to land his record breaking seventh July with Politician, but Lightning Shot from the small yard of Des Rich ran out the winner. Politician made amends the following year.
The 1987 race attracted a strong field and in a thriller the three-year-old Bush Telegraph, trained by Bert Abercrombie and ridden by Garth Puller, remained unbeaten in nine starts. Runner up Model Man ran one of the greatest July races in defeat.
In 1997 the legendary jockey and now trainer Michael “Muis” Roberts won his first and only July on the David Ferraris-trained Super Quality.
In 2007 the late great “Queen Mother” of South African racing, Bridget Oppenheimer, watched the famous Oppenheimer black and yellow silks win the July for the sixth time. It was Anton Marcus’s fourth July win and trainer Charles Laird joined his great grandfather Alec Laird, great uncle Syd Garrett, uncle Syd Laird and cousins Dennis Drier and Alec Laird as a winner of the great race.
2017 is already a record breaking year as the stake of R4,25 million is the biggest in the July’s history.
By David Thiselton
Nother Russia has been cut from 40-1 to 20-1 for the Vodacom Durban July after Saturday’s big race success and Heavenly Blue now heads the market at 8-1 with World Sports Betting.
Previous favourite Marinaresco has been pushed out from 7-1 to 11-1, Bela-Bela from 10-1 to 14-1 and It’s My Turn from 11-1 to 18-1. Empress Club disappointment Star Express has gone from 25-1 to 75-1 while fourth-placed Safe Harbour has been marked out from 22-1 to 40-1.
Betting World makes Heavenly Blue 13-2 favourite and goes 10-1 Marinaresco, 12-1 Black Arthur, 14-1 Brazuca, 16-1 Bela-Bela, Edict Of Nantes, It’s My Turn, 20-1 Nother Russia, Captain America, French Navy, Horizon, Master Sabina, 25-1 and upwards others.
> The odds on Elusive Silva and Prince Of Wales are likely to have shortened as well following impressive displays at Greyville on Sunday.
By Michael Clower
The first three races at Greyville yesterday were for two-year-olds and there were some eye catching runs.
In the first over 1200m the horses had to circle at the start for over half-an hour, but this did not stop the Glen Kotzen-trained Philanthropist colt Pack Leader running on to win in impressive style by three lengths under Craig Zackey. He will make an impact in the two-year-old Gr 1 features. What A Winter colt Red Eight stayed on well for second. Pathfork colt Mighty Mercury has a long stride and a lovely action and after carving out a big lead he was only just pipped for third by the Oratorio gelding Storm Ruler. Mighty Mercury should come on from the run and is one to follow. Storm Ruler and fifth-placed Crusade gelding Subtropical should also improve.
In the second race over 1200m the Lezanne Forbes-trained filly Light On Her Toes is well-bred being by Gimmethegreenlight out of the Gr 1 Allan Robertson dead-heater On Her Toes. She did well to get up from a wide draw under Alec Forbes in a time which was 0,1 second quicker than the boys in the previous race. Owner Alesh Naidoo will thus have two Gr 1-winning chances at Scottsville’s Festival Of Speed meeting at the end of May as he also owns the top colt Varallo. Querari filly Zarnitsa improved to finish second by 0,75 lengths. The next two in the running, Ideal World filly Luna Child and Visionaire filly Bridal Veil, were both making their debuts and stayed on strongly. Sail From Seattle filly Coral Queen was just behind them, but this was already her third run.
In the third over 1200m, the Dennis Bosch-trained Trippi filly Victory Trip led from start to finish under Eric Ngwane to win in a time which was 0,77 second slower than the previous race. Second-placed Captain Al filly Esteemal is a big horse, who can be watched over further. The fifth-placed Believethisbeauty was unlucky as she was cramped for room for much of the straight and she can be watched, especially in a 1000m race as she has a lot of pace.
However, from a form perspective the third might prove to be the weakest of the three juvenile events, considering Victory Trip was having her fifth start.
By David Thiselton
Last year’s second Marinaresco looks like ending up with top weight if, as seems possible, Captain America sidesteps the Vodacom Durban July.
Brett Crawford said: “Captain America works on grass this week and starts off in the (Independent On Saturday) Drill Hall and then goes for the Rising Sun Gold Challenge which will be one of his main missions. We will then make a call as to whether he runs in the July or waits for the Champions Cup.”
Since El Picha in 2000 only one horse has won South Africa’s most celebrated race with top weight – Pocket Power when he dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter in 2008 – and that horse’s owner Marsh Shirtliff confirmed that Marinaresco will take his chance in the July 1 spectacular even if the gelding has to shoulder 60kg. So too did trainer Candice Bass-Robinson, saying: “It wouldn’t be ideal but we will run assuming things go right in the meantime.”
In last year’s July Marinaresco was beaten a quarter of a length by The Conglomerate. Both carried 55.5kg but now Marinaresco is rated 4kg better. Much of the difference is due to the weight-for-age scale but it underlines Joey Ramsden’s view that The Conglomerate is “still off a reasonable mark.”
By Michael Clower
The Mark Dixon-trained London Call was an impressive winner of a Pinnacle Stakes race over 1100m at Scottsville on Sunday under Marco van Rensburg and will by all accounts be a big runner in the Gr 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint over 1200m at the Festival Of Speed meeting on May 27 at Scottsville.
Another KZN Gr 1 hopeful for the Festival Of Speed might well be the filly Great Aim, who is trained out of the small yard of Ivan Moore, who has proved before he can get the best out of a good horse.
Van Rensburg was impressed with the big stride of London Call on Sunday and said he would be “hard to beat” if carrying the right weight in the Tsogo Sun. He was thankful for the advice he received from London Call’s regular pilot Brandon Lerena from Mauritius and hoped he would keep the ride. He reckoned there would be a lot of jockeys trying to get aboard the six-year-old Kahal gelding.
London Call has only had 13 career starts, winning eight of them. Dixon has learnt how to peak him for a race by using the Summerveld sand tracks, as he takes a long time to recover from his races and his issues mean he is unable to work on the grass. The connections were bitterly disappointed, if not angry, when London Call was eliminated from the Tsogo Sun field last year. However, he has made sure of his place this year as he is unbeaten in four starts from 1100m to 1400m this season and ran off a 108 merit rating on Sunday. In fact Dixon said he is only getting better, so missing last year’s race might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
On Sunday, he beat a good field by 1,75 lengths, despite carrying topweight of 61,5kg.
There were good Tsogo Sun trials for a number of other horses in the race. The Justin Snaith-trained Sergeant Hardy finished an excellent second considering he is only a three-year-old and carried joint topweight. Furthermore, he likely needed the run, his first since outing since his disappointing unplaced run on Sun Met day when starting at 15/10. When at his best Sergeant Hardy is capable of blitzing a field, but on this occasion he sat just off the pace but had to be pushed along from a long way out, so will likely come on a lot from the run.
Dennis Drier’s Gr 1 winners Guinness and Seventh Plain ran good trials in third and fourth, although they were both receiving 3kg from the winner. The former was returning from a long break, while the latter, who ran on in eye-catching style, was having his first outing since the Betting World Cape Flying Championship on Sun Met day.
Drier’s evergreen Barbosa was also not disgraced in seventh, considering he was carrying joint topweight and had a small traffic problem late on. The Brett Crawford-trained Search Party ran a good sixth with joint topweight, considering he likely needed the run, his first since the Cape Flying.
There were also excellent big race trials from the Duncan Howells pair Saratoga Dancer and Ten Gun Salute. Both are entered in the Vodacom Durban July and they stayed on for fifth and eighth respectively.
Earlier on the powerfully built Drier-trained Var filly Vanity Fair led a Maiden Juvenile Plate over 1000m from pillar to post under Anthony Delpech to win easing up by 2,5 lengths. This franked the form of the Ivan Moore-trained Great Aim, who is by Main Aim. On debut over 1000m at Scottsville Great Aim showed fine cruising speed before quickening to win by 1,5 lengths, beating Vanity Fair by 1,75 lengths. The yard said she had “woken up” from that run and would now be aimed at the Strelitzia Stakes over 1100m at Scottsville on April 30. That race will tell whether the Allan Robertson is a realistic target. Moore won a juvenile Gr 1 with the Australian-bred Fighting Warrior in 2011 on one of the few occasions he was given the chance to train a top horse.
By David Thiselton
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