All systems go for Durban JulyComment on this story
Durban - Everything is set in place at Greyville racecourse for Saturday's meeting, headlined by Africa's richest race the R3 500 000 Vodacom Durban July, course officials said.
While 55 000 people were expected to cram the racecourse, enthusiasts around the country were expected to place their bets on the annual event.
The executive management of Gold Circle, a licensed gaming operator in KwaZulu Natal, estimated that all forms of betting on the day would show a healthy improvement on the previous year.
An estimated R105 million would be wagered on the South African tote (Saftote) around the country, on Saturday, which included betting on all race meetings around the globe.
Greater than R90 million would be placed on the Greyville meeting alone, of which approximately R40 million would be bet on the actual Durban July.
Punters on course at Greyville would wager approximately R20 million on the day, placing their bets on meetings all over the world, and year-on-year, the totalisator - pool betting - was expected to increase by between three and five percent.
These numbers excluded wagers placed with bookmakers on course, in South Africa and foreign bookies around the world.
Trainer Geoff Woodruff's Triple Crown winner Louis The King had been attracting steady support in the betting. Originally opened at 7:1, he was now firm favourite at 4:1.
The original opening favourite, Legislate, was now on offer at 9:2.
There was also solid support for the lightly-weighted Futura while Rake's Chestnut - a stablemate of Louis The King - had eased out from 5:1 to 15:2.
The rest of the contenders were at 10:1 and upwards.
This year's field would be the smallest in the history of the race owing to the altered track at the 128 year-old Greyville track. The grass was recently narrowed to accommodate a new polytrack and a maximum field of 16 would contest the July Handicap. Other races on the track would be confined to 14 runners.
Included in the twelve-race programme on Saturday were four races on the new polytrack - an artificial surface with scientifically-designed drainage to allow racing to go ahead in wet conditions.
(For the first time in South Africa, the reverse-angle camera was being used, giving the photo-finish operator and judges a clear picture of the horses from the reverse side.)
All the parking had been fully-booked more than a week ago as well as all the restaurants at the track.
Tent town was abuzz with last-minute decorations and a fine day was forecast by the weathermen.
President Jacob Zuma was expected to attend the glitzy extravaganza alongside fashionistas, socialites and celebrities.