Belgarion in action. Photo: Candiese Lenferna
Belgarion in action. Photo: Candiese Lenferna

Belgarian stakes his claim for Durban July honours

By Andrew Harrison Time of article published Jun 20, 2020

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Belgarian will have his odds slashed by the sponsors for next month’s Vodacom Durban July as he turned in a terrific performance in the Grade 2 World Sports Betting 1900 at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.

Justin Snaith has done a masterful job in placing his charge for a crack at the country’s biggest race, ducking the Sun Met, and even after his facile win in a race that is a traditional stepping stone into the VDJ, he is likely to make it into the field with close to bottom weight for his age group.

Belgarian will not be seen out again before the big race, “my runners are out for one look before the big day,” explained Snaith and if he gets into the VDJ off a predicted 54kg he could take some stopping.

Snaith stable jockey Richard Fourie is marooned in Cape Town at this stage of the virus lock-down but Anton Marcus could be on a diet of brown rice and stewed apple to make the weight if he can jock Fourie off Belgarian in spite of possibly having the possible option of Do It Again for a record-breaking third successive VDJ win.

“He was super, super impressive,” enthused Marcus post-race. A disappointingly slow pace saw the field bunch up on the home turn with Belgarian seemingly taking a couple of awkward strides as they came off the turn. Marcus was then left hunting for galloping room. “The horse got me out of trouble,” he said as he had to dodge further traffic in the straight. But once in the clear, Belgarian accelerated home to win comfortably.

Tristful ran a cracker in second and may well have booked his place in the VDJ and the mare Camphoratus, sixth in the big race last year, gave notice that she is on the up as she snatched third after blowing the start.

“It has been difficult but a year ago this was sort of the plan,” explained Snaith. “Bernard (Fayd’Herbe) found himself in no-man’s land in the Derby and he finished some seven lengths off them. We gelded him after that and it was then a case of run in the Met and finish fifth or sixth and get a penalty or save him for the Natal season.”

Snaith is in the fortunate position of having owners who are wise to the ways of the sport and Gillian and Alec Foster, who also bred Bulgarian, have gone along with the plan. Given that all goes smoothly in the lead-up to the VDJ, Bulgarian will be among the strongly fancied runners.

It may still take a month or so for handicap ratings to settle into some form of normality with the majority of runners coming off an enforced three-month break from the Covid lock-down. That said, Mayabi Gold was rated a division superior to her opposition in the East Coast Handicap (Listed) and consequently made short work of her opposition.

Although skating home by the best part of three lengths from a late finishing Perfect Air, the win may have held more merit than the bare facts would suggest.

The early pace was little more than a strong canter and Anton Marcus had his mount handy and on the heels of the pacemakers. But he took action a long way out and was hard at work on Mayabi Gold as the field hit the final turn and at that stage looked to be in a spot of bother.

However, Marcus persevered and the mare responded under a vigorous hands-and-heels ride and a couple of backhanders to eventually shake off her rivals. Perfect Air came out of the scrum late to take second and Coral Bay holding on for the shallow end of the purse.

Miyabi Gold is out of the former Alistair Gordon-trained Mkushi Gold and is owned by Evanstan Investments with the late Robin Hamilton as nominee in partnership with Nick Jonsson. She does have the Vodacom Durban July pencilled and it will be interesting to see which path Justin Snaith takes with the mare as he has a boat-load of VDJ nominations including duel winner Do It Again and World Sports Betting 1900 winner Belgarian.

Marchingontogether has always struck as a better horse than his record shows as he looked set for a smart sophomore career but appeared to lose his way a little. As a late four-year-old he seems to have hit his straps and Gavin van Zyl and the Pathfork gelding’s myriad of owners can look forward to a promising end to the season after Marchingontogether spread-eagled his field in the Grade 3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup.

Midfield turning for home in the 2400m event, Warren Kennedy threaded him through the traffic and Marchingontogether whistled past to win as he liked with the grey White Lightning finishing best of the rest for second.

On this showing, the 3000m Gold Vase on Vodacom Durban July day and the 3200m Gold Cup look well within Marchingontogether’s compass.

Andrew Harrison

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