The latest edition of the Betting World 1900 never looked likely to shed much light on the Vodacom Durban July picture, even less so now that it turned out to be a very slow-run and tactical affair. Friday evening’s race was contested by a field that was far from the strongest ever assembled for this allegedly important July “trial” over 1900m at Greyville, and few punters will be wagering that they saw the next July winner in action, but the 1900 did at least produce a thrilling finish with a dead-heat for first prize as the eventual outcome.
Only twelve contested the race instead of the maximum 16 runner field that we have witnessed for most renewals of this handicap, but the race still had an open look about it. Hammie’s Boy had failed narrowly when making his winter season debut in a Listed handicap at Scottsville in late April and started as the 33/10 favourite. Fisani and In Writing were the 4/1 joint second favourites ahead of Golden Chariot (6/1) and Safwan (13/2).
The pace was sedate virtually until the turn for home, with Golden Chariot ambling along in front of Hammie’s Boy, Fisani and In Writing, with We Three and Mahogany further back. Safwan and Alderry were held up further behind, with Cask and Tropical Empire (winner of this race in 2009) also amongst the backmarkers. The inevitable sprint for home began in earnest as they reached the top of the straight, and given the soft lead which he had enjoyed it is hardly surprising that Golden Chariot proved to be a hard horse to reel in.
Hammie’s Boy was quick to tackle Golden Chariot, with Fisani making her bid on the inside as In Writing loomed up with every chance wider out. Golden Chariot had enough in the tank to find extra and hold them at bay, with Hammie’s Boy fading late and Fisani not quite finishing her effort off. In Writing was vainly chasing the pacemaker in the closing stages without ever quite getting to him, but finishing strongly on the inside of runners was Safwan. Quickening well after lagging off the pace in a contest which was not run to suit him, Safwan flashed up in the shadow of the post to join Golden Chariot on the line. The judged was unable to split them, and they were declared the joint winners. In Writing finished half-a-length further back in his first appearance of the KZN season, while Fisani was another two lengths behind him in fourth after appearing to have every chance. Tropical Empire never got going, finishing nearer last than first and showing nothing like the turn of foot which has served him so well at Greyville – his favourite racecourse – in times past.
Golden Chariot was given a very well judged ride by Muzi Yeni and fully deserved to at least not lose, although his eleven rivals did play into his hands, while Anthony Delpech rode Safwan with typical vigour to at least snatch half a win out of the fire. Both geldings no doubt earned a place in the Vodacom Durban July field, but they are bound to remain as big outsiders.
As if there was any doubt, Safwan’s trainer Mike de Kock was quick to point out that his four-year-old is nowhere near as good as Bold Silvano, who won the 1900 for the yard before going on to win the later-than-normal July in 2010, but the Australian-bred import has now won three times from four Greyville appearances and may as well give the big one a bash. Golden Chariot was racing for only the second time after he returned from virtually a year on the sidelines after suffering a strained ligament and has now won all of his last six appearances in handicaps. A dual Listed winner in the autumn of 2010, Golden Chariot has bounced right back to his best and may even improve a bit more from this run, but it is hard to visualize him being a major July contender. Third placed In Writing can improve beyond both of those who beat him here and may still fare best out of all those who contested the 1900 if he does get into the July field, but this form looks short of what it will take to capsize the very best horses in South Africa.
Four-year-old Safwan is by Encosta de Lago out of the Lord Ballina mare Showella, who won six races between 1600/2500m including a Gr 1 in New Zealand and the Gr 1 South Australian Derby. She is also the dam of a dual Listed winner in Australia. Safwan races in the ownership of Sheik Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and has won four times from 17 starts (a telling statistic in itself) for stakes of R338 725.
Six-year-old Golden Chariot is a son of Caesour out of the Northern Guest mare Golden Apple, who won four races over 1300/1700m including the Gr 2 Gosforth Park Fillies Guineas and who is also the dam of Listed winner Quest For Gold. Bred by Northwood Stud, Golden Chariot has won eight races from 19 outings and earned R586 950 in the colours of owner Chris van Niekerk. – by Matthew Lips
,Betting World Greyville 1900 (SAf-G2) (5/20) Greyville, South Africa, May 20, R300.000, 1900m, turf, good, 1.56.03 (CR 1.53.25). *1 – SAFWAN (AUS), 53.5, ch g 4, Encosta De Lago (AUS) – Showella (NZ) by Lord Ballina (AUS). Owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum; breeder T W Archer Trust (AUS); trainer M F de Kock; jockey A Delpech *1 – Golden Chariot (SAF), 53.0, b g 6, Caesour – Golden Apple (SAF) by Northern Guest. Owner C J H van Niekerk; breeder Northwood Stud (SAF); trainer S G Tarry; jockey M Yeni 3 – In Writing (ARG), 55.5, ch g 5, Editor’s Note – Inalay (ARG) by Candy Stripes Margins: dead heat, ½, 2 Also ran: Fisani (SAF) 56.0, Hammie’s Boy (SAF) 53.5, We Three (SAF) 54.5, Hawk’s Eye (GB) 53.5, Dance At Daylight (SAF) 52.0, Tropical Empire (AUS) 60.0, Cask (SAF) 54.0, Alderry (SAF) 56.0