The Hollywoodbets Durban July public gallops were held at the big race venue on Thursday morning in front of an enthusiastic crowd of close on 2000, with eleven of the twenty horse final field going through their paces.
A popular and longstanding tradition that was reintroduced by Gold Circle some 24 years ago, the gallops are a condition of entry for the iconic race and year in and year out draws a substantial early-morning crowd in the penultimate build-up week to the first Saturday of July.
With coffee and pastries on offer, the crowd, which beats that drawn by most non-feature racemeetings at the Theatre of Dreams, enjoyed a beautiful Durban morning and a chance to watch their big race choices stretch their legs.
The Gauteng-based runners went through their paces earlier this week and the recordings of their gallops were shown.
While there wasn’t a concerning performance of the eleven that turned up at Hollywoodbets Greyville, the standout has to be Mike de Kock galloper Dave The King who galloped with his dual Gr1 winning stablemate Safe Passage. Ridden by big-race rider Craig Zackey, Dave The King stretched beautifully and looked to be relishing his work.
Rachel Venniker stood in for Piere Strydom on favourite See It Again, and the son of Twice Over turned on the charm up the home straight to draw clear from an unnamed galloping companion.
These are sectional times for your information – first column 800m to finish – second column is 400m to finish.
|DO IT AGAIN
|SON OF RAJ
|SEE IT AGAIN
|DAVE THE KING
|TRIP OF FORTUNE
|POMP AND POWER
Supplementary surprise entry Trip Of Fortune galloped on his own under Sean Veale and moved beautifully as he went past the post with ears pricked.
Vaughan Marshall’s Rascallion galloped with stablemate Look For Hounds and is another that caught the eye as he went through the motions in the pink of health.
But you be the judge – watch the gallops here.
Looking back in history, the July gallops began in the early years when trainers were given the opportunity to put their big-race runners on the grass for a final workout before the big day and to enable visiting horses to familiarize themselves with the venue.
In the years before the establishment of the Summerveld Training Centre, local horses were stabled at various sites around Durban and in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Some were trained at the private out-of-town venues in the province, others at Pietermaritzburg’s Hollywoodbets Scottsville track and many at Clairwood.
Many more were stabled at Newmarket in the northern region of Durban and these horses were trained on the beaches at Blue Lagoon.
Visiting horses from Gauteng and the Western Cape were freighted into the area weeks before, many competing in the important races early in the season from which their trainers hoped they could emerge as candidates for invitation into the country’s biggest race.
In the final week before the race the runners were invited to use the Hollywoodbets Greyville track for their final workout and the public was encouraged to attend the event with coffee and sticky buns available free of charge.
And so the July gallops were born and they became one of the biggest occasions in the build-up to the event with thousands of people crowding the course to watch their fancies in action and to make their final selections.
But when the Summerveld Training Centre was established and trainers had the superb grass training tracks on which to prepare their candidates, they became reluctant to take their horses to Hollywoodbets Greyville for their final workouts.
This situation was exacerbated as transportation methods improved and trainers from Gauteng began floating their runners overnight to Durban, arriving either the day before or even on the morning of the race.
So the Durban July gallops, just like the sad recent demise of the Cape Town Met equivalent, fell away and a part of the tradition disappeared.
However, with constant pleas from the public, Gold Circle decided in 1999 to re-introduce the gallops.
Only a few of the final field made an appearance with Geoff Woodruff’s star, El Picha, putting up a splendid gallop before going on to win Africa’s greatest racing event some 10 days later.
Gold Circle then went one step further and made appearance at a timed, televised, public gallop a condition of acceptance into the race and the Durban July Gallops was officially reborn.
With Hollywoodbets now sponsors of the 2200m contest for the second year, there was a tangible buzz on course this morning and even a mask wouldn’t have been protection against catching a heavy dose of July Fever.
There are 10 days to go to 1 July!