And they’re off! Let the speculation for the Durban July begin
DURBAN - The speculation begins today with the first entries for this year’s Vodacom Durban July due in by 11am. The July is the catalyst for interest in South Africa’s Champions Season and with a number of outstanding performers this season the 125th running of South Africa’s most famous race is set to be a cracker.
With nearly four months still to go before the big race, successes and failures of horses with potential July credentials will be followed closely and debated country-wide.
Justin Snaith has campaigned last year’s winner Belgarion sparingly. Snaith did a brilliant job in plotting Belgarion into last year’s race on favourable weight terms and the gelding has only had three outings since his big success.
He beat Rainbow Bridge with a telling finish in the Green Point Stakes and finished third behind Jet Dark and Rainbow Bridge in the Queen’s Plate and second to Rainbow Bridge in the Cape Met.
The July will no doubt be on the gelding’s radar again but will face a stiffer task this year as he has jumped in the merit ratings and will carry close to the top weight.
Eric Sands will be hoping for better luck with both Rainbow Bridge, likely top weight, and Golden Ducat, both certain entries, assuming they are fit and well. Rainbow Bridge has hardly put a foot wrong in his career and victory would finally realise the dream of prolific owner Mike Rattray. Joey Soma has taken the slow route with last year’s runner-up Got The Greenlight and his preparation has gone well so far with the colt winning the Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes in only his second start this term after warming up in the Gr2 Hawaii Stakes when touched off by MK’s Pride.
Johan Janse van Vuuren appears to have a possible contender in the progressive Argentinian-bred gelding Puerto Manzano
. He has yet to be tested beyond a mile but finished off his recent race in fine style for back-to-back wins and could possibly go the 2200m of the July. Time will tell.
The name of last season’s Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara winner and Equus Horse of the Year Summer Pudding is sure to be among the first entries.
The only blip on her CV to date was a below par run in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes where she was reported coughing post-race. She has since put the record straight with a facile win in the Gr2 Colorado King Stakes over the Turffontein 2000m.
She has also won at Greyville, winning the Gr1 Woolavington 2000, which cemented her place in the minds of most Equus voters.
But this year’s crop of three-yearolds appears to be of vintage quality and the new blood is set to test the proven older campaigners to the full. The form of the Cape Guineas has worked out in spite of the race being run at a muddling pace. Second-placed Linebacker went one better in the Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby and fourth-placed Jet Dark went on to upstage Rainbow Bridge in the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. The one question mark is the weak showing of the winner, Russian Rock in the Derby and subsequently in a Graduation Plate at Greyville. Recent Triple Crown winner
Malmoos disappointing in the Guineas but comfortably beat Linebacker in the Concorde Cup over the Kenilworth mile.
Mike de Kock has indicated that Malmoos may miss the July after a hard season but one hopes that another July trophy in the cabinet will prove too much of a temptation. The Daily News 2000, the most important July warm-up for threeyear-olds, should provide a telling pointer.
The big unknown is the unbeaten Kommetdieding. He was a shortpriced favourite for the Cape Derby before injury scuppered his race but he was hardly tested in the Gr3 Politician Stakes where third-placed Rascallion, second to Linebacker in the Cape Derby, was three lengths adrift.
The Daily News 2000 will more than likely be on his radar.
Other sophomore male’s that have claims are Catch Twentytwo, Rascallion, The Gate Keeper and Copper Mountain who pushed Got The Greenlight to the limit in the Horse Chestnut.
War Of Athena
Recent facile Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara winner War Of Athena is head and shoulders above her female rivals on the Highveld and Paul Matchett must surely have July intentions. The Gr1 Woolavington 2000 would be an ideal prep race.
Justin Snaith has another cracker in Captain’s Ransom, beaten only once and a facile winner of the Gr1 Majorca Stakes beating Clouds Unfold. She has not raced beyond a mile at this stage of her career and the Jonsson Workwear Garden
Province Stakes may be her main Champions Season target but her name may still appear on the list of first entries.
Running Brave, second to Summer Pudding in the Gauteng Summer Cup last season, is sure to be among the first entries while confirmed stayers African Adventure and former Cape Derby winner Atyaab are also possible.
Two jockeys who may be forced into a choice of rides come Monday, 21 June, the date of final acceptances, are Muzi Yeni and Luke Ferraris. Yeni could be caught between Got The Greenlight and War Of Athena while Ferraris could be faced with a choice between Rainbow Bridge and Malmoos.
Entries will be announced live on Tellytrack on April 21 after race 1.