Horseracing’s back in business! A bumper crowd in excess of 30 000 watched the 126th renewal of the R5 million Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville in Durban on Saturday.
The 2200m contest produced a dream result for multiple champion conditioner Mike de Kock and jockey Smanga Khumalo, when Mary Slack’s Silvano filly Sparkling Water gave the talented boys a hiding.
After two years of covid-19 induced silence on course, the crowds came back in their numbers after Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s timeous repeal of the restrictions on event attendance at the end of June. With new sponsors’ Hollywoodbets grabbing the marketing and promotional baton with zeal, Africa’s greatest horseracing generated shades of its traditional buzz and appeal.
The 2013 Durban July history-making winning jockey, Wilgerbosdrift-sponsored Smanga ‘Bling’ Khumalo found himself at the centre of a minor sideshow controversy in the build-up when he parted company with his regular dual Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winning mount Jet Dark to take the reins on Sparkling Water, who is owned by his sponsors, Wilgerbosdrift.
The decision proved on the mark, as Sparkling Water (16-1), the sole member of the fairer sex in the class of 2022, romped clear off a modest pace into the final 300m, to beat Jet Dark (16-1) by 3 lengths in a time of 135,08 secs and give Mrs Slack a first Durban July success, after her parents Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer won it six times in their famed yellow and black strip.
Another De Kock runner, Safe Passage (11-2) was the first 3yo home in third, a further 0,30 lengths back.
History chasing 7yo Do It Again (8-1) led the charge in the latter stages, but was consumed late by the top three.
Defending champion Kommetdieding (12-1) carried joint topweight and failed to deliver his blistering late turn of foot, finishing 4,10 lengths off, with late reserve inclusion Airways Law (40-1), a further 1,20 lengths back.
Sparkling Water was Mike de Kock’s third fairer sex victress in the big race after Ipi Tombe (2002) and Igugu (2011) – and his fifth overall.
The 4yo was one of a quartet representing the Randjesfontein master. Interestingly, this is the first season in many a year that De Kock has based himself at Summerveld, and the move back to basics is certainly paying dividends.
The Wilgerbosdrift& Mauritzfontein-bred winner is a fifth Durban July winner for the deceased champion Silvano (Lomitas). She is second foal of the well-performed Espumanti, who raced for De Kock and retired after pulling up lame in the July in 2014.
She is by Dansili out of Jouet and raced 17 times for six wins from 1160m -1900m.
Espumanti won two Gr2 races and was Gr1-placed three times, including a second to superstar Beach Beauty in the 2012 Garden Province Stakes.
Sparkling Water has won 7 races with 8 places from 16 starts for stakes of R4 354 125.
Watch the replay here: