The Justin Snaith-trained Silver Host handed the Vodacom Durban July final field panellists a last minute curve ball when winning the Grade 2 Track and Ball Derby over 2450m at Hollywoodbets Scottville on Saturday and it made their task of avoiding the annual controversy that follows their decision a tad tougher.
There were 30 horses still standing their ground at time of writing and they are all looking for a place in the final field of 18 which will be announced tomorrow. The two reserves chosen also have hope of ultimately lining up on July 3.
Looking at the last VDJ log, two places have become available in the top 18 with the scratchings of War Of Athena and Trip To Africa.
Doublemint, a Listed winner this season who was in 17th position on the final log, will also be under pressure to keep his position as he has been unplaced in both of his SA Champions Season, the Grade 2 WSB 1900 and the Grade 3 Hollywoodbets Dolphins Cup Trial.
Another top 18 incumbent whose place will be under pressure is Running Brave who has not been herself in her last two starts in which she was beaten a combined margin of 40,50 lengths.
Realistic contenders for those two definite and four possible places include five horses i. e. Silver Host, Jubilee winner Johnny Hero (who was supplemented following that win) , Cup Trial runner up Tristful, Grade 2 New Turf Carriers Western Cape Stayers winner Atyaab and Jubilee runner up Shango.
Winners of the Track And Ball Derby do not get preferential consideration for final field inclusion but Silver Host had been among the five horses looking in just outside the top 20 on the last July log and winning a Grade 3 together with his Grade 2 runner up position in the Western Cape Stayers might see him leapfrog those whose log position was based on placed performances in Graded races.
Snaith's opinion that the four-year-old Drakenstein Stud homebred Silvanon gelding is the best stayer in the country went some way to being justified on Saturday. However, the July has always been on his program too.
The T&B Derby 0,70 length runner up Dream Destiny was rated only 73 before the race but more interesting was the 2,60 length third-placed finisher, the Grade 1 SA Derby runner up Pamushana's Pride.
The latter was two lengths clear of Shah Akbar in the SA Derby and Shah Akbar was in 16th position on the last July log having followed that SA Derby fourth with another Grade 1 fourth in the Daily News 2000.
However, the difficulty the panellists face in Silver Host's case is that he received 1.5kg from former Cape Derby winner Atyaab when beaten 2,25 lengths in the Western Cape Stayers over 2800m and the latter was only in 20th position on the last July log.
On the other hand Silver Host did beat Atyaab by 2,25 lengths in the Grade 3 Chairman's Cup over 2500m albeit when receiving 4.5kg.
Johnny Hero is rated only 106 but the Jubilee is among the four races in the July conditions where the winner is given preferential consideration for inclusion in the final field. It will not be unprecedented to exclude him though as this happened to Coral Fever, who was supplemented following his Jubilee win in 2017 yet was still omitted from the final field. If Johnny Hero is excluded there are bound to be grumbles because the Grade 2 WSB 1900 winner She's A Keeper and runner up Matterhorn were in 14th and 15th place in the last log despite merit ratings of 96 and 101 respectively. However, the WSB 1900 has a condition attached whereby the winner cannot get more than a six point merit rated raise and none of the other runners in the race can receive any raise unless requested by the connections. Both horses would otherwise likely have been as high if not higher rated than Johnny Hero. Furthermore, Matterhorn subsequently finished a narrow and unlucky second in the Grade 3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup over 2400m which convinced the panellists he deserved a lofty log position.
Tristful, who was in 19th place on the last log, looked to have booked his place when finishing a narrow second in the Cup Trial. However, Silver Host has now created a sleepiness night or two for Tristful's connections who face the possible prospect of being the first reserve for two years running.
Nexus, 13th on the log, was only third in the Cup Trial but was giving Tristful 1.5kg and lost to him by only 0,40 lengths. Furthermore, he won the Grade 2 Peninsula Handicap over 1800m in December, where he gave Silver Host 6kg and a 3,70 length beating.
Super Silvano was a narrow second in the Peninsula, receiving 6kg, and then beat Nexus a head when fourth in the Premier Trophy receiving only 1.5kg but he was well beaten by third-placed African Night Sky, who is still standing his ground in the July. Super Silvano was also only fourth in the Western Cape Stayers. Furthermore, he and African Night Sky have done nothing since the publication of the last log to be catapulted upwards from their positions outside the top 20.
Shango probably needed to win the Jubilee to be a definite inclusion but he was giving Johnny Hero 4kg and was beaten only 0,75 lengths so warrants consideration for a final 18 berth.
Tree Tumbo, who has won three races this season and finished third in the Grade 1 WSB Summer Cup, ruined his chances by managing only 5th in the Cup Trial.
Flying Carpet, fourth in the Grade 1 WSB SA Classic, would have needed to do better than seventh in the Daily News 2000.
Nevertheless the panellists face a tough day in the selection process today and they might be hoping for a scratching or two to help them out.