Durban - In a race of firsts, Kabelo Matsunyane scored the biggest win of his career as Winchester Mansion got the better of hometown favourite See It Again in a tight finish to Saturday’s Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville.
The 30 000 spectators were treated to a thrilling spectacle as two horses and two jockeys gave it their all.
The two joined in combat 300m out as they pulled clear of the opposition, and it was a duel to the line. Piere Strydom, bidding for his fifth win in the race before his expected retirement, had to switch See It Again off the heels of a tiring Without Question, but looked to just hold the upper hand on his challenger as Michael Roberts’ runner See It Again stuck resolutely to his guns.
But Winchester Mansion gained inch-by-inch and it was a nod of the heads at the line with Winchester Mansion prevailing by a head.
It was Matsunyane’s first Gr1 victory of his career, it was also a first for trainer Brett Crawford and his son James and owner and breeder Gaynor Rupert of Drakenstein stud who have had a fabulous feature race season.
It was something of a fairytale win for Winchester Mansion, who injured his neck in a paddock accident as a youngster. Named after an iconic old hotel in Sea Point in Cape Town, his neck injury delayed the start to his racing career, but he showed his potential by winning the Gr3 Winter Derby at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth before losing his way a little.
A decision was taken to geld him, and the transformation was instant as he was an unlucky second in the WSB Greyville 1900 before cementing his place in the July with a smashing victory in the Gr3 Cup Trial.
Crawford was almost speechless but was full of praise for his jockey.
“When you’ve got a guy like Strydom on your inside you don’t expect the other jock to get past him, so full credit to that guy back there he’s had a phenomenal season, he rode a great race and he’s set himself a great future ahead.”
For Roberts it was heartbreak, so near but so far. Roberts and Strydom’s relationship goes back to their riding days where both were fierce competitors. Strydom gave See It Again the perfect ride but was just not able to give his older rival 3.5kg.
Something of a surprise package was the filly Bless My Stars who ran on gamely for third while the old man of the race and two-time winner Do It Again ran his usual courageous race to finish fourth and placed in all six July’s that he contested.