A champagne plan come together. That’s the story of an extraordinary 124th renewal of the R1,5 million Gr1 Vodacom Durban July for both the Snaith Racing team and the broader South African racing industry.
Their stable elect Belgarion stormed to victory in an event that looked a pipe dream just a matter of months ago.
The echo of horse hooves on the Hollywoodbets Greyville turf, with a scattering of human life made the 2020 edition of the great race, held in warm windless winter weather, an eerie theatre of the bizarre, with the exertion and performance on the track in stark contrast to the stand-off body language of the fortunate few in the ghostly grandstands.
But it’s a year that former SA champion Justin Snaith will recall went perfectly according to plan in the end for him and his staunch off-shore patrons, Alec and the Honourable Gillian Foster, who finally cracked the ice in a race that has eluded them for decades.
With five runners in the 2200m handicap, Snaith always had the tactical edge and it was clear that Serino Moodley had been instructed to make the pace true as Silvano’s Pride went off like a hare on a mission to lead her field from the break.
Into the run for home, the Silvano filly came under pressure as the challenges came from all sides.
The Sands pair of Rainbow Bridge and Golden Ducat had always been thereabouts and they hovered dangerously midway down the city straight as Got The Greenlight and It’s My Turn unwound their attack.
But looming up from way back down the wide outside, Belgarion (9-2) was too strong and he held off Joey Soma’s gutsy 3yo Got The Greenlight (17-2) by 0,80 lengths in a time of 132,40 secs.
History bidder Do It Again (15-2) had every chance a head back in third, a length in front of another 3yo in Golden Ducat.
Dean Kannemeyer’s Equus Champion Stayer It’s My Turn ran the race of his life to bank the fifth cheque, a nose behind Golden Ducat.
Recent Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge winner Rainbow Bridge was 2,75 lengths off the winner in sixth after fading late.
Belgarion was a fifth Durban July winner – and a third in a row – for Justin Snaith.
This was Richard Fourie’s third victory in the great race after the somewhat contentious boardroom call on Legislate in 2014, and Do It Again in 2019.
Fourie said it was always a fairytale waiting to happen.
“Six months ago I told Justin I wanted to ride this horse. We had a bad draw today but I never panicked. He produced a great finish. Well done to the owners and the whole team,” he said.
A son of the famous 2003 Durban July winner Dynasty, who also won from a wide gate, Belgarion is out of the lightly raced German two-time winner Riva (Acatenango) – a half sister to French Gr3 winner Oxava.
He has won 7 races with a place from 9 starts and stakes of R1 553 125.
So a great race yet again – this time in unique circumstances.
Well done Gold Circle and sponsors, Vodacom.
And spare a thought for lifelong racing supporter Mike Rattray. Probably his best chance ever to win the race going unfulfilled with his half-brothers Rainbow Bridge and Golden Ducat both looking dangerous late, but failing to produce the victory goods. Golden Ducat ran fourth.