The jewel in South Africa’s racing crown takes place at Greyville on Saturday with the running of the R2-million Vodacom Durban July, writes Gary Lemke for GGGaming.
Although the decision to move the country back to alert level 4 lockdown will mean that there can’t be any crowds, or owners for that matter, on the course on Saturday – or public at TAB Totes – there’s still huge interest in the race.
I’ll get straight to it, my summary of the field and their chances.
On big days like these the trainer and jockey can make all the difference as they tend to handle the occasion a bit better.
Rainbow Bridge: top rated horse in the race, great draw, supremely confident jockey. But, should be giving only 5kg to Linebacker and 5.5kg to Rascallion. A lot of weight to carry against some smart sorts.
Johnny Hero: Can’t see being involved. Re-assess though if Shango wins the July consolation (race 3 earlier in the day!) as they finished close up last time.
Shah Akbar: Top trainer Sean Tarry and good draw, 53kg. Lyle Hewitson has climbed off him though. Still out at weights but only 2.5 lengths behind Linebacker, Rascallion and Kommetdieding at level weights over 2000m.
Expressfromtheus: By What A Winter, his runners don’t stay, although his dam side does. The July is a test of stamina, I can see him fading in the last 200m.
Crown Towers: Is he the pace-maker, one of four Justin Snaith-trained runners? If so, is likely to get swallowed up 250m out?
Rascallion: Can be temperamental, no crowds will help him. Has a perfect draw and good weight. Will be running on but will the winner have bolted?
Linebacker: The star three-year-old and well weighted. Has Grant van Niekerk, a top rider aboard. Didn’t like the way he hung late in winning over 2000m last time.
Sovereign Spirit: A little below some of this class but weight and fitness brings him into the wider picture for minor placings. Won the July consolation last year so we know he’s ideally course and distance suited.
Cirillo: Ignore his poor last run. The blinkers have been removed and the tongue tie is off him. Is a front-runner with stamina doubts but could hang on for fourth, Hewitson chose to ride him and from the Tarry yard.
She’s A Keeper: Keeps improving. That Greyville 1900 produced winners and placed horses back in the day. Fields not as strong these days. Out at the weights (received 10kg from Crown Towers last time and only 1kg here). But, smart turn of foot, ideal for Greyville. And Warren Kennedy rides.
Belgarion: Snaith says he’s “5 stars” in his prep. Still, can’t see last year’s winner finishing in front of Rainbow Bridge at the weights given he’s up 5kg from last year. Is very well and lightly raced. Has overcome a virus.
Nexus: Wherever Sovereign Spirit is, should be around there, another string to the Snaith bow.
Running Brave: A game mare and will be handy but impossible to ignore her por last two runs. She likes to run from near the front and the No13 draw will cost her early energy getting there early.
Got The Greenlight: Well weighted, deserved favourite, jockey Musi Yeni in form. The draw won’t be a hindrance. Lovely turn of foot, perfect for Greyville. Travels down from Gauteng late for the race. Second last year. The horse to beat, despite coming off a rest.
Matterhorn: Ambitious entry, should have run the Consolation July. Poor draw but weighted to beat She’s A Keeper. Is unlikely to though. Can’t see in first half of the finishers.
Do It Again: The deadly Snaith/Richard Fourie combination. Seems to be the stable elect. Is already a two-time winner of this race and is down 2kg from last year, and jumps from similar will draw. Still, will need luck again from that draw.
Tristful: Has a tough draw to overcome and drawn between two fancied runners. Might get bullied out at the start. Beaten a short head by Sovereign Spirit in last year’s July consolation. Could finish close to Sovereign Spirit again, but I can’t see finishing in the top 6.
Kommetdieding: Still has coltish tendencies, but has had what many feel is a jockey upgrade to former national champion Gavin Lerena. The worst draw, and will need to come from behind. Looks held by Linebacker and Rascallion on recent form, but shouldn’t be far behind them.
Selection: Got The Greenlight, Linebacker, Rascallion, She’s A Keeper