Durban was at its best on a beautiful autumn day for the Independent on Saturday’s Race Day, on Saturday.
It has been about 60 years since the first 1 400m Drill Hall Stakes in 1962, giving a sense of one of the Independent on Saturday’s most popular weekly features, Then and Now, a tag which was also attached to one of the races earlier in the day.
Punters came from near and far for the traditional opener to the winter racing season, although Independent on Saturday staff only had to cross the road. Like other landmarks, St Anthony’s Catholic Church and the Kendra Hindu Temple, Independent Newspapers is on the edge of the race course that dates as far back as 1844.
The feature race, the Grade 2 Independent on Saturday Drill Hall Stakes, was won by Silver Operator, a six-year old bay gelding ridden by Richard Fourie and trained by Vaughan Marshall.
With final odds at 13/2, Silver Operator came flying down the inside rail right at the finish to clinch an exciting race, which up until metres before looked like it was going to be won by Smorgasbord, on a course where the going was good to soft.
Silver Operator had just come off a second place in Scottsville in April, and a win at Kenilworth in February to dominate the season opener.
Second by a head was Russian Rock ridden by Keagan De Melo and trained by Dean Kannemeyer, who came hurtling in on the far side. Third was Smorgasbord with Gavin Lerena in the saddle, and trained by Paul Peter.
The two course favourites – Seeking the Stars at 9/2 and Captain Fontane at 7/2 –didn’t feature.
The Independent on Saturday