Bortz Plan Comes Together As Crawford Racing Celebrate Double

When it's your day, it's your day!

Father-and-son team Brett and James Crawford landed their second successive Hollywoodbets Durban July together at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.

It was also a dream come true for deserving industry stalwart Greg Bortz, who owns the winner Oriental Charm together with his girlfriend Gina Goldsmith as well as Leon Ellman, while jockey JP van der Merwe could also celebrate a first July victory.

Greg grew up a stone’s throw away from the Durban city track and was first attracted to the sport when hearing the commentaries from his childhood household.

Selfie time for Greg Bortz and Gina Goldsmith (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

He told David Thiselton after the race that ‘it sounds cliched’

“But growing up just up the road, it truly is a dream come true.”

Greg has become an industry hero as a man who was instrumental in turning Cape Racing around in a matter of months from the brink of being closed down.

He did it with the help of Hollywoodbets and these partners are all set to do the same in KZN.

However, the first time Greg was in the spotlight was at the 2022 BSA National Yearling Sale.

At the time he had a Hollywoodbets Durban July hopeful called Pomp And Power, a Vercingetorix gelding who had just won the Gr 1 Cape Derby impressively.

At Nationals Greg seemed intent on cornering the Vercingetorix market. On day one seven of the eight lots he splashed out on were by Vercingetorix.

The July must have been in his mind and the plan came together on Saturday, because among those seven purchases was Oriental Charm himself.

Ironically, the Cheveley Stud-bred colt went relatively cheaply at R375 000, considering the average for Vercingetorix was more than R600 000.

However, Bortz had done his homework, if the Hollywoodbets Durban July was indeed his aim, as it is clear to see from his pedigree why the gelding stayed so well on Saturday.

JP van der Merwe and Brett Crawford enjoy the moment (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

His dam called Souk is by July winner Greys Inn and, although this Listed-placed mare’s three wins were from 1200m to 1600m, she is out of an unraced Strike Smartly mare who was an own sister to SA Derby winner Bouquet-Garni.

Nevertheless, Greg admitted to not being too confident before the race.

He said, “This felt like the most open Hollywoodbets Durban July I can remember. I knew the horse was spot on, but I knew everyone was going to rely on us to make the pace. I knew him to be a keen horse who pings the gate so well he would find himself in front. So I wasn’t confident because how could a front running horse win over 2200m? It’s not an easy task in a Hollywoodbets Durban July. So I wasn’t confident.”

However, as the day panned out, Greg confirmed that his confidence grew.

He said immediately after the race, “The tailwind helped, although it has died down. For a while it was like the gods were favouring us.”

However, the race itself was an emotional roller coaster.

“The one thing this horse has shown us over and over again, is he has heart like no horse I’ve ever owned. I thought he was beat twice and he came back twice. It is as JP likes to say, ‘He’s a boytjie!'”

Asked, due to the tightness of the finish whether, he had only begun celebrating as the horse crossed the line, he replied, “No only about 200m after the line! I wasn’t sure. You are so focused on your horse it was only about ten minutes later I found out who the runner up was, it was all a blur!”

Enjoy this Newzroom Afrika coverage of the day:

The 0,30 length second-placed Cousin Casey would have been an equally fitting winner because he is owned by Durban-born Ravi Naidoo.

Naidoo said on the morning after the race, “It was a squeaker, so close, but what a privilege. I feel only gratitude this morning.”

The race was full of controversy as usual and Ravi’s other runner, Future Swing, was the biggest victim. Shoemaker sufferered an epistaxis halfway through and when dropping back suddenly, See It Again was forced inward and this saw Future Swing being squeezed against the rail.

Ravi said, “Richard Fourie was almost thrown over the rail, he returned with scuff marks in his boot. Future Swing lost shoes in the fracas and we are worried the incident was so bad it may have put paid to his career.”

See It Again suffered more interference later.

Piere Strydom said, “I tried to get there as late as possible and I feel he was catching slowly. The best I was going to do was third, but at the end I had to stop riding when JP cut me off. I don’t blame him, it’s the July and sometimes we do silly things in this race, but it cost me third place.”

JP was given a 16 day suspension for the transgression.

Two other KZN horses benefited from the Michael Roberts-trained See It Again’s misfortune as the Nathan Kotzen-trained Royal Victory finished third and the Gareth van Zyl-trained Flag Man was fourth.

Brett Crawford said about his second win of the iconic race, “It feels better than the first because we are taking it in more today and really enjoying the day … amazing.”

He added, “It is another well executed plan. He did everything right, the horse had a flawless prep, he looked amazing today and I thought JP gave him an outstanding ride.”

Brett’s son James runs the satellite yard in Johannesburg from where their Champions Season horses have been prepared with great success. Last year Winchester Mansion defied the belief, based on anecdotal evidence, that a horse could not travel down from altitude three times and still win. Oriental Charm did the same this year and went into the race off an identical preparation.

Brett concluded, “A lot of people forgot that as a three-year-old he was giving those older horses weight (when second in the WSB 1900 and winning the HWB Dolphins Cup Trial) and today there was a massive turnaround in the weights.”

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