The pressure for a place in this year’s Vodacom Durban July field has probably never been greater as only one horse of the eight who have earned automatic berths is still standing which means 17 places are still up for grabs.
The ten races which gain an automatic July berth for the winner are the Queen’s Plate, the Met, the Cape Derby, the SA Classic, the SA Fillies Classic, the SA Derby, the Premier’s Champions Challenge, the Daily News 2000, the Woolavington 2000 and the Gold Challenge.
Coral Fever, the winner of the Champions Challenge, is the only winner of those races who is among the July’s declared horses.
There are four races which enjoy preferential consideration for the winners – the Summer Cup, the WSB 1900, the Cup Trial and the Jubilee Handicap.
All four of the winners of those races ie Liege, Elusive Silva, African Night Sky and Yakeen are still among the declarations.
The panelists thus face an impossible task and there look sure to be connections who will feel aggrieved.
For example, which horses are more deserving?
The likes of Tilbury Fort and Dark Moon Rising, who ran to ratings of 103 and 101 when respective runner ups in the Jubilee and WSB 1900 respectively, or Gold Standard and Roy Had Enough, who have Gr1 unplaced form but in the Gold Challenge were both staying on well and ran to ratings of about 115?
Gold Standard, who is merit rated 117, has not quite lived up to his outstanding form of last season but has been beaten 3,3 lengths, 5,5 lengths and 3,5 lengths in the Queen’s Plate, the Met and the Gold Challenge respectively. He was 13th on the last July log and subsequent scratchings Oh Susanna, Surcharge and Legislate were all above him so he looks likely to make it into the final field.
Roy Had Enough became the first three-year-old to ever win the Christmas Handicap, a feat he pulled off by a comfortable 2,75 lengths and he followed up by winning a Pinnacle event over the same course and distance. Since then he has only run in Gr1’s, finishing a 4,1 length fifth in the SA Classic, a 6,25 length 8th in the Daily News and a four length sixth in the Gold Challenge. However, his connections will be on tenterhooks as he was 19th on the last log.
There is still one round of qualifying to go in Sunday’s Track and Ball Derby and Track and Ball Oaks.
An interesting entry (he didn’t accept) in the Derby was Royal Crusade, who won a strong Graduation Plate over 1600m at Turffontein on Saturday. However, that win might not have been enough to impress July final field panelists.
The Slade and It’s My Turn are also among the July hopefuls running in the Derby and the latter pair will likely have to put in impressive displays to be considered. Strathdon has already put up his hand for a place by only just failing to beat Made To Conquer in the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup, The latter was supplemented for the July and is fancied by many to win it. Roy Had Enough is also a Derby entry but trainer Frank Robinson will probably avoid running him three weekends in a row.
An interesting entry in the Oaks is Flichity By Farr, who was on the outside looking in on the last July log. Connections could make a case for her to be included in the July field without a run on Sunday as she finished second in the SA Oaks and the winner of that race Secret Potion was tenth on the last log. However, she will likely line up as a stayer who would not want to miss an opportunity to win a race like this.
Ngaga is another interesting Oaks entry as she impressed when waltzing home in the Listed East Coast Handicap over 2000m last time out and is a July declaration. Girl On The Run and Roy’s Riviera are two other Oaks entries who will have to impress the July final field panellists.
Meanwhile, the connections of the like of Matador Man, Platinum Prince, Rocket Countdown, Sabina’s Dynasty, Social Order and Head Honcho will be sweating it out.
Head Honcho was surprisingly not on the last log despite winning the Listed Sledgehammer, and his fourth in the Cup Trial might not be good enough.
Matador Man was an unlucky third in the WSB 1900 and the way he was finishing suggested he could possibly stay the July trip. He will likely defend his title in the KZN Breeders Million Mile just six days before the July.
Another July contender who is among the Million Mile entries is Gilder Pilot, whose recent form has severely dented his chances of making the July field.
Platinum Prince was an unlucky fourth in the WSB 1900 and third in the Cup Trial so remains a borderline case. Sabina’s Dynasty put his hand up by winning the Grade 2 Gerald Rosenberg Stakes over 2000m at Turffonein. Rocket Countdown finished runner up in the first two legs of the Cape Winter Series to the crack gelding Rainbow Bridge. Social Order’s fourth place finish in the Jubilee dented his chances.
These borderline horses would have been leap-frogged by Made To Conquer and possibly also by respective Jubilee winner and runner up Yakeen and Tilbury Fort and Cup Trial runner up Crowd Pleaser.
July log third-placed Liege ran 12,4 lengths back in his comeback in a Pinnacle event on June 10, but as the Summer Cup winner panellists will probably forgive him that run.
However, the connections of all the horses mentioned will be chewing their finger nails as the big race approaches.