The R5 million Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July is set for a record 126th renewal on the first Saturday of July.
With all the stars aligning, including a repeal of regulations on masks and limitation of public gatherings, a vibrant upbeat crowd at the best attended official public gallops for the big race in many years at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Thursday morning, sent a message that Durban is set to rock on 2 July!
The news that our minister of health, Joe Phaahla, has scrapped some of South Africa’s last remaining Covid-19 regulations, ending the mask mandate, limitations on gatherings, and checks on travellers coming into the country, is a great result for the hosts of Africa’s Greatest horseracing event after two ghostly years. We await official confirmation of plans to increase the capacity beyond the projected 27 000.
After Tuesday’s slick final field announcement at the Hollywoodbets Head Office in Umhlanga Rocks, there were plenty of accolades again for the spirit of commitment introduced by the new sponsors, who have brought their own unique purple spirit of innovation, organisation and passion to the event.
Invited guests, racing stakeholders and members of the public enjoyed a selection of premier coffees and pastries, as thirteen of the big race runners went through their paces in the mandatory gallops. East Coast Radio were broadcasting live from the Durban track as Hollywoodbets Dolphins players mingled with the happy crowd.
While no official head count was done, one observer suggested there were in excess of 1500 people present on the beautiful morning.
Mike de Kock’s 3yo duo of Aragosta and favourite Safe Passage were first out and galloped together. While the formbook favours Gr1 Daily News 2000 winner Safe Passage, it was the lesser fancied Aragosta who caught the attention.
The 7yo Do It Again, who bids for his place in history with a third victory in the race, galloped on his own under big race rider Aldo Domeyer. The popular gelding looked in fighting trim and moved fluidly.
Vaughan Marshall’s 2021 runner-up Linebacker galloped with stablemate Look For Hounds. The son of Captain Of All was quite keen and has interestingly been carded with blinkers for the big race. The headgear was not fitted for the gallop.
The only filly in the race, Mike de Kock’s talented Sparkling Water looked in magnificent health as she galloped alongside Gr1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge winner Al Muthana.
Justin Snaith’s Hoedspruit is a big horse and he did nothing wrong as he stretched out on his own.
Dean Kannemeyer’s 3yo Waterberry Lane looked fit and happy and galloped with enthusiasm.
The Snaith’s ‘wild child’ Pomp And Power galloped with a stable companion after being accompanied by a beautiful white pony. The son of Vercingetorix is very capable, but his bad behaviour – he dug his heels in – and temperament flaws can only be exacerbated by the crowd on the big day. Justin Snaith looks to have some work to do on him.
Considered by many to have put in the best gallop of the morning, defending champion Kommetdieding looked in the pink of health and galloped with an air of authority. His post Highveld Season prep will be the only cause for concern.
After a scintillating low-flying third in the Gr1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge, the handsome Jet Dark looked well and caught the eye as he paced on his own. A horse with a presence, he looks a massive runner if given a chance by Bernard Fayd’herbe to be within striking distance in the straight.
Gauteng raider Red Saxon was sweating up slightly and worked within himself with his companion. The son of Red Ray strode out well under history-making lady jockey Rachel Venniker.
Read the latest SPRINT:
Reserve runner Airways Law galloped on his own and looked well. He could be a serious contender for top honours in the ‘consolation’ race, the Gr3 Vodacom 2200.
The rest of the gallops were recorded, with recent arrival from the Cape, Belgarion, going through his paces at Summerveld.
Gauteng residents Puerto Manzano, Zapatillas, Second Base, Astrix, Flying Carpet and Nebraas were galloped on their home grounds. It was difficult to gain much insight from the clips.
A post-gallops discussion hosted by Graeme Hawkins and including July winning jockeys Anthony Delpech and Kevin Shea (6 Durban July winners between them), provided some valuable educated observations, and didn’t drag on forever.
Looking ahead, the Hollywoodbets Durban July Panel Discussion promises to be a top quality preview.
It will be recorded at Hollywoodbets Greyville in a purpose-built temporary studio in the Classic Room, and the star-studded line-up will be hosted by leading race-caller Alistair Cohen, the Voice of the Dubai World Cup,
Panelists include five times Hollywoodbets Durban July winning trainer Justin Snaith, four times Hollywoodbets Durban July champion Mike de Kock, past SA champion and 2013 Hollywoodbets Durban July winning jockey Smanga ‘Bling’ Khumalo, and rising star Grant van Niekerk, a winner of 17 Gr1 races, and a man who is keen to get out of the runner-up box and celebrate his first Durban July success.
The show will premiere on SuperSport Variety 4 (Ch 209) at 20h00 on Wednesday 29 June.
Regular repeats include a showing on the Saturday morning of the race, at 10h30 on Ch204.
Watch the official gallops and panel chat here:
Find out more by visiting www.hollywoodbetsdurbanjuly.co.za