As always the Vodacom Durban July of 2012 provided plenty of discussion and controversy. However, one thing seems to have been clearly established following the running of the July – it is difficult to see any horse other than Variety Club (Var) being named Horse of the Year.
While both Variety Club and beaten July favourite Jackson (Dynasty) have both won two G1 races apiece (although the KRA Guineas, also won by Variety Club, should surely enjoy such status?) , and have both beaten the other at their preferred distance, Variety Club’s win over older horses in G1 Rising Sun Challenge, gives him the edge. The chestnut has won no less than six feature races this season, and has suffered two just two defeats from his eight seasonal starts.
The only other possible contender for Horse of the Year honours this year would be the brilliant mare, Europa Point. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar enjoyed a superb season, going unbeaten in six starts, winning from 1400-2000m, with her successes including a score over colts in the G1 President’s Challenge. Europa Point’s biggest disadvantage may lie in the fact she has not raced since April, and only won once in open company.
The July winner Pomodoro, should not be dismissed from calculations either. While he was an outsider when winning the July on Saturday, the Jet Master colt has won four feature races this season, and was arguably unlucky not to add the G1 SA Classic to his two G1 wins that he has accumulated following Saturday’s gutsy win.
However, Variety Club’s consistency and class would appear to place him firmly at the top of the tree for this year’s top honours.
The July meeting last Saturday also underlined, yet again, what a sad loss to breeding both Jet Master and Victory Moon were. It will be interesting if either Jet Master or Victory Moon can make their mark through their progeny’s offspring in future years.
Victory Moon enjoyed a superb G1 double with War Horse (Golden Horseshoe) and Princess Victoria (Garden Province Stakes). “The Princess” has surely also wrapped up Equus honours as this season’s top 3yo filly, although War Horse may battle to gain the upper hand in his division against the ultra impressive, and unbeaten, Soft Falling Rain (National Assembly).
The ill-fated UAE champion nearly pulled off a remarkable G1 treble when his daughter Straight Set was narrowly beaten in the G1 Golden Slipper. It is hard to remember when one sire had 3 G1 winners on July day, and it’s a tremendous tribute to Victory Moon that he went so close.
Jet Master was represented by his second July winner on Saturday, when Pomodoro emulated his paternal half-brother Pocket Power in collecting the laurels in South Africa’s best known race. While he didn’t cut things quite as fine as Pocket Power (who dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter), Pomodoro still made his supporters sweat in a tight finish.
Jet Master is the first stallion since Fort Wood (Hunting Tower, Dynasty) to sire two July winners. The only sires to sire more July winners were Jamaica (Jamaican Rumba, Gondolier, Jamaican Music) and Montrose (Milesia Price (twice), Monteith, Monasterevan). The latter is the most successful sire in July history to date, with his offspring winning the great race on four occasions.
The July winner’s pedigree is another for those who favour “best to the best” theory. By the greatest sire ever bred in South Africa, Pomodoro is out of a mare who not only won the Fillies Guineas, but, prior to Pomodoro, had bred three black type performers. Interestingly, both Pomodoro and his half-brother, Golden Chariot (Caesour), dead heated in feature races, landing the SA Derby and Astrapak 1900 in this fashion.
Pomodoro’s dam, Golden Apple, has, telling bred four stakes performers to four different stallions, which really underlines her merit as a broodmare!
KZN’s main man, Kahal, also enjoyed a great day on Saturday, albeit a rather frustrating one. His son, Smanjemanje, was just touched off in the Vodacom Durban July, and the race before, Shimmer and Shine, ran second in the G1 Golden Horseshoe. It surely won’t be long until Kahal gets his 6th G1 winner.
It is also interesting to note the influence enjoyed by former July performers on Saturday’s race card. Former July winner, Dynasty (Fort Wood), had three runners in the big race, and is also sire of Blake, runner up in the G3 Schweppes 2200. Already sire of a July runner up in Irish Flame, it is surely only a matter of time before one of Dynasty’s offspring lands the July proper.
Former July runner up, Al Mufti, has had a tremendous influence on the South Africa thoroughbred. As mentioned, his son, Victory Moon, enjoyed a tremendous day at Greyville on Saturday, while another son, Captain Al, was the sire of beaten G1 Golden Slipper favourite, and G1 winner, All Is Secret.
Third, behind Al Mufti, in the 1991 July was Rakeen, whose son, Jet Master, sired July winner Pomodoro, as well as Garden Province runner up, Ebony Flyer. Rakeen is also broodmare sire of Princess Victoria, who won her fourth G1 race on Saturday, when conquering fellow Rakeen granddaughter Ebony Flyer in the Garden Province.
Another very promising sire, who won the July, is champion racehorse, Greys Inn (Zabeel). Already sire of a Derby winner in Royal Bencher, Greys Inn has a number of promising 2yos this season, including Gray’s Champ. The latter won the juvenile plate on July day – a race which has thrown up a number of smart performers in the past, and Gray’s Champ could be one to follow.
It will be interesting to follow the possible stud careers of runners in this year’s race, and see if any can build similar, or better, profiles to the stallions mentioned previously.