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The Last Rothmans July

El Picha's July 2000 victory was a thriller

El Picha after his second July win in 2000

Regular Sporting Post reader Cecil Pienaar requested a flashback to the Rothmans Durban July of 2000.

El Picha’s success in big races was record setting at the time as he retired as the highest stakes winner in South African racing history.

His famous win in the 2000 Durban July was a standout, and he was the last horse prior to Justin Snaith’s Do It Again in 2019 to score back-to -back successes in the Durban showcase.

His win beating Young Rake was considered his finest hour, but he had a few! The Argentinian-bred, selected on a buying trip by the late Terrance Millard, famously only ended up in South Africa by chance, but proved one of the toughest and gamest horses ever to set hoof on African soil.

From 39 career starts, El Picha posted 12 wins and 19 places with highlights including back to back July wins and the 1999 Summer Cup.

Just two months later, Gold Circle and Rothmans of Pall Mall jointly announced in Durban that as a consequence of pending tobacco legislation, the cigarette company would no longer continue to sponsor the July.

Reports at the time said that the decision by Rothmans of Pall Mall to stop sponsoring the Durban July was welcomed by anti-smoking lobbyists.

National Council Against Smoking executive director Dr Jussuf Saloojee said he was “delighted”.

He said that sport sponsorship by tobacco companies served only two purposes for the industry:

— to overcome the direct ban on tobacco advertising on television; and

— to associate cigarettes with the glamour, excitement and drama of sport.

Young children learnt to associate cigarettes with sport and sport-people, influencing them to smoke.

Saloojee said any serious attempt to reduce smoking among young people had to include an end to sport sponsorship by tobacco companies.

Evidence published in the influential British medical journal, The Lancet, showed that children who follow Formula One motor racing on television are twice as likely to smoke.

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13 comments on “The Last Rothmans July

  1. Gavin says:

    Not the candy man best ride.. Gave free my heart too much ground to make up

    1. Editor says:

      Be interesting to get him to argue that, Gavin

  2. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Thank You Mr Editor. Always appreciated. What a race 👍

    Anton Marcus, what a Jockey and still going !

    Good Night all

    1. Editor says:

      Cheers Cecil

  3. Seattle Slew says:

    Thanks Mr Ed and Cecil – I remember this fellow very fondly and backed him to win his first July. The second time around, I felt he had too much weight on his back – I was delighted when he proved me wrong! Because his win/loss ratio wasn’t that great, we don’t always consider El Picha in the superstar bracket, but at his peak, he was top class – very few horses have won the July under top weight and and he’s come closer than any other horse to completing the July-Summer Cup- Met treble.

    1. Editor says:

      Good point, Seattle
      Wasnt he a relative cheapie too?

  4. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Agree with Seattle, El Picha never seen as a Super Star, but I thought he was.

    Mr Millard, I think only paid around R60 000 for him.

    My heart went out to Kevin Shea that day, was so hoping for a dead heat. We only remember the winner.

  5. g. naicker says:

    could be totally wrong. just before and after the line. it looked like young take nose was in front. never saw the frames of this race.

  6. Kevin V says:

    I’m sure that El Picha was an Argentian breed horse. I have read somewhere that the plane returning to South Africa had an unfilled berth on the plane and ElPicha was chosen to fill the gap. He was not amongst the first choices. I backed him to win his 1st July. Paid + R 25 for a win.

    1. Editor says:

      Yes, Kevin, spot on

  7. Seattle Slew says:

    To the naked eye, I thought Young Rake had won. But they did show the actual photo used by the judges to determine the finish and I think it was Richard McMillan writing in the Mercury on the Monday who went into this in some detail and highlighted that the right decision had been reached. ironically, having caught the trifecta when El Picha won in 1999, I would have achieved the same if Young Rake won this time around as I had El Picha in my placings but could not see him winning under 58kg – but from a sentimental point of view, I was very happy to forego my winnings just to see El Picha as a dual July winner and the first horse since Politician to win it under top weight.

  8. Suren says:

    You are 100% correct young rake won that race

  9. King Chris says:

    I think Robbie Hill was his pilot correct me if I’m wrong .

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