Drama is woven into the very fabric of the Vodacom Durban July.
After Hawwaam’s crushing exit dashed so many starry eyed dreams at the start of Saturday’s spectacular 123rd renewal, defending champion Do It Again powered home to write his name into the history books – but not before denting the chances of the classy Eyes Wide Open.
The conspiracy theorists enjoyed a few field days after the Hawwaam withdrawal, with inevitable fingers pointed – but seldom motives tendered – at everybody from the on-course vet, to the trainer, to the jockey, to the horse whisper and to the handlers.
And even the racing operator had their accusers. The last mentioned is an interesting party.
Despite the fact that the national anthem is part of the tradition and the hosts had their hands full with more than 50 000 reasons for drifting off the timetable, it is said that Hawwaam’s departure initiated R10 million in refunded bets. Work that out on Gold Circle’s pressured bottom line.
But after trainer Mike de Kock’s sporting endorsement of the vet’s decision shortly after the race, the Hawwaam cloud has largely blown over.
Now it’s the Eyes Wide Open incident. The 4yo took a swipe from eventual winner Do It Again close to home. That has had the questions filtering in from our readers.
Why was there no race review? That appears to be the leading question.
We put it to the NHA’s Racing Control Executive Arnold Hyde that, given the fact that the incident was in-the-face visually, would the precaution of a ‘race review’ notification from the Stipes not have been the most correct course to have followed?
Not only does it boost public confidence that racing’s policemen are on top of things, but it costs nothing – and that view is exacerbated by the enormity of the occasion, the record betting pools – and the fact that we had a whole new world of uninformed observers.
And the subsequent questions from our readers have underlined this thought.
“A Race Review is called when a Stipendiary Steward, or any of the connections, consider that an incident may have had a material effect on the result of the race when considering the provisions of lodging an objection. As there was a 1,95 length margin between Do It Again and Eyes Wide Open at the finish, there was never any concern that the result of the race, when considering both horses eventual placings, was materially affected by the incident. I am not sure what you mean by ‘precaution’, but there was never any prospect of further action by the Stipendiary Stewards, from an objection perspective into the incident,” said Arnold Hyde.
Paarl-based trainer Glen Kotzen, who won the July in 2009 with Big City Life, has done an outstanding job of getting dual Gr1 winner Eyes Wide Open back to his best this term. He conceded that he was very surprised that there was not a race review called by the Stipes.
He said that owner Hugo Hattingh had made the sporting decision not to object. But he felt that one paragraph of 30 odd words in the official report had hardly done the incident justice.
The Stipes reported:
At approximately the 250 metre mark Eyes Wide Open (W Kennedy) had to ease momentarily to avoid the heels of Do It Again (R Fourie) which shifted in away from the crop and was immediately straightened.
Glen, who has been training for close on 30 years, said that every race incident impacted differently on the individual horse.
“In terms of the American rules, it would have been worth our while to object as Do It Again could have been considered for disqualification. But the South African rules dictate that we would have to show that, but for the interference, Eyes Wide Open would have finished ahead of Do It Again. I am not suggesting my horse could have beaten Do It Again. But I’d estimate the incident cost him a length. And we finished a head behind the third horse – a difference to Swinger, Trifecta and Place Accumulator punters – and R200 000 more in stakes for my owner – one of the most staunchest and loyal men in the game.”
He pointed out that Eyes Wide Open is like one of those wind-up toys.
“One has to wind and wind and wind – he takes time to get into his stride. But when he gets going, he flies. Do It Again’s interference broke his stride and momentum at a crucial stage. Have a look at how he kicks late again when Warren (Kennedy) works on him and gets him going again.”
Richard Fourie has won two Gr1’s on Eyes Wide Open and knows the horse well. The inevitable question of race riding came up.
“Look, things happen in all level of races. I’m not suggesting there was any intent. Richard is one of the best. He had the whip in his left hand and the move had the effect of forcing my horse behind his stablemate Doublemint. Horses do shift about. He apparently apologised to Warren (Kennedy) afterwards. I would have thought there would at least been an inquiry. I mean at the Vaal in midweek, lesser incidents occur – and the jockey gets a holiday. This was our biggest race on our biggest day. I have left two messages with the Stipes. Nobody has called me back,” said Glen.
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