Saturday’s Scottsville feature race programme offers a genuine last gasp bid by a few Vodacom Durban July prospects in two feature races that attracted some resistance and bemusement when they were restructured.
Gold Circle made the bold move in 2014 to open the KZN Derby and the KZN Oaks to all ages at weight-for-age terms.
This was based on the rationale that the main focus of 3yo’s during the SA Champions Season is the individual sex Guineas, the Daily News 2000, the Woolavington Stakes and the Vodacom Durban July.
This meant that over the years the Derby and Oaks had suffered and were downgraded and battled to find a consistent place in the programme.
It was decided to try and enhance the quality and depth of both races by opening them up to all and move away from the traditional 3yo classic restriction. The decision was supported by international precedent, such as the Irish St Leger and the Yorkshire Oaks.
Further justification was seen in the fact that there are no weight-for-age races in South Africa over the distance and it was hoped that the overall programme for stayers would benefit from the change.
The Graded Races sub-committee had no reservations about endorsing the change at the time.
While the purists will have their firm views, as the fifth renewal looms under the free-for-all dispensation, has the variation actually had the desired effect?