Summerhill-bred Pierre Jourdan
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
VODACOM DURBAN JULY (Grade 1)
Greyville, Turf, 2200m
7 July 2012
Were you a watcher of Tellytrack’s excellent broadcast on the July Day fields Sunday evening? If you weren’t, we won’t recount everything they talked about, because the show will be on the loop on Channel 232, and you can get it for yourself. But what did matter, was their discussion on the “big one”, the Vodacom Durban July. Before you accuse us of parochialism because we happen to be the only farm with two runners, it’s worth remembering that it’s Africa’s greatest horse race, and it’s the only one that counts right now. The panel comprised four learned gentleman, Graeme Hawkins, Vaughan Marshall, Sheldon Peters and Brett Crawford, the latter the trainer of the ruling hot favourite, Jackson, and one-time conditioner of a Summerhill J&B Met hero, Angus. The panel were unanimous, it’s Jackson or nobody, despite his draw at 16. We all know how good Jackson is, and the fact that the weights for three-year-old colts are capped at 57 kgs, makes him a very likely prospect, with luck in the running.
To illustrate how well he’s in at the weights, last year’s runner-up, the Summerhill-bred Pierre Jourdan, was assigned 57,5 kgs for the 2011 version, while the best three-year-old in the field, Igugu, was set to carry 55,5 kgs, which she did with aplomb, closing strongly to hold off “PJ’s” challenge by ¾ length at the line. This year, PJ concedes 3 kgs to the colt Jackson, and he would have to be the first horse since the introduction of metric weights in 1961 to carry 60 kgs to victory, if he is to take Jackson’s colours down. That’s a kilogram more than he conceded to Igugu (a filly), so in handicapping terms, he has an impossible task, but the July can be an “impossible” race to predict. There are twenty horses in the race, the Greyvillle straight is relatively short (450 metres), and the false rail, which was traditionally set at somewhere between 10 and 13 metres out from the normal rail, is brought in to 6 metres for the July. The experts tell us that at 6 metres, outside horses are at something of a disadvantage when they come off the rail.
One horse whom we’ve feared ever since the weights came out, was last year’s third, English Garden, not only well drawn this year, but with an added year of maturity and just 56,6 kgs to carry, he looks like a serious “lurker”.
Beyond these three, it’s anybody’s race, though Mary Slack’s two fillies, Ilha Bela and Gorongosa, both deserve mention. We know the bettors fancy Ilha Bela ahead of Gorongosa, but we have a sneaky suspicion about the latter, who’s 9 for 10 so far, and whilst that record came in lesser company, she will stay every inch of the race, and will be doing her best work at the business end of it. Oh, and one other thing: she’s trained by Mike de Kock.
If you’re a Summerhill man, you’re not going to conclude this story without mentioning Smanjemanje, who at 66-1 is the rank outsider. He’s a dual Group winner this season, and looked a winner with 150 to go in the Champions Cup (Gr.1) at Turffontein just two months back. If you’re looking for a decent place bet at very long odds, you could do worse than to have a couple of bob on him. Remember where he comes from, and that tells you, anything could happen! And they’re paying six places.
The best represented stallion in the race, is a former hero, Dynasty, who won it in facile fashion from the 20 draw. Jackson jumps from the 16 slot, and if he’s anything like his Dad, that has to be a positive portent. Besides, Dynasty has the excellent Beach Beauty (also drawn wide) and with a bit of luck, could be concerned with the finish, though this diminutive filly has 57 kgs to cope with. Otherwise, there’s the lightly raced Sage Throne, who is something of an unknown quantity at this level, but who has enough on his record to give him a sniff. Like Jet Master and Captain Al, Dynasty is another exceptional advertisement for South African-bred stallions, having been bred and raised at Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Farm up the West Coast, and now standing at Highlands Farm Stud in Robinson.
For what it’s worth, the panel’s top bets on the day are: Captain’s Wild (presently at 10/1) in the 2200, and Golden Chateau (4/1) in the Byerley Turk (Darley Arabian).