Well, the final fields and draws have been announced and the gallops are just around the corner– let July fever commence!
Every ‘July’ is an event in every sense of the word – the build up, the anticipation, that sense of history in the making. And each year it delivers. Some may think it over-hyped and accorded too much importance for its real contribution, but despite the conditions, the July somehow remains the Holy Grail of South African racing. It is steeped in history, drama, triumph and tragedy. Graeme Koster possibly put it best when saying – “No matter whether you are an owner, a breeder, a trainer or a jockey – it’s the one race everyone wants to win.”
We have an unusually interesting and interconnected group of runners this year and I took some time to catch up with the connections.
Second Time Lucky ?
We have three runners back for a second bite at the cherry. Pierre Jourdan, English Garden and Castlethorpe.
5YO Pierre Jourdan is the only representative for Parade Leader. A R60,000 buy at the 2009 Ready to Run, the partnership dissolved and he resold for R1,6 million this April. ‘PJ’ really seems to have captured the public’s imagination. He’s gutsy, he gritty, he has fought his way back from injury twice over – he has his own Facebook fan page and even his own music video! Gary Alexander is not worried about the 13 draw and says in a big field it can work in your favour. Pierre Jourdan had a 4 draw last year, but encountered traffic and got cut into behind, so it’s not always as attractive as it sounds. PJ has the top weight of 60kgs, but has proved that he can carry lead. Robbie Fradd (who has 2 July victories to his credit) partnered PJ and his new silks to a creditable 3rd in the recent Rising Sun Gold Challenge and takes the ride next week. The compliments and accolades are many and varied, but one of my favourites is from Andrew Fortune after their win in the 2010 Spring Challenge – “All our lives as jockeys, we hang around to ride horses like this”.
Mike Bass (with 3 July victories to his name) saddles another of the topweights in Castlethorpe. Aussie horses do not have a great record in this race, but this 4YO son of Not A Single Doubt is out of a Sadler’s Wells mare and comes with a whole lot of versatility. He has not had the best of the draw, but Karl Neisius (who won on Flaming Rock in 1991) knows the horse and the track well and their recent second in the Rising Sun Gold Challenge shows them to be at the top of their game.
4 YO English Garden is another Bass representative for stalwart supporter Lady Lilford. This Oldlands bred son of Camden Park thrives best on the Highveld, but finished 3 lengths behind Igugu in last year’s July and the stable is very satisfied with his prep. He drew the 9 berth, carries 56.5kg and will be piloted by Bernard Faydherbe (who rode Pocket Power to a historic dead heat with Dancers Daughter in 2008).
Last, but not least from Milnerton’s Block T3 is the Avontuur bred son of Fort Wood, Chesalon. He carries the distinctive shocking pink and black silks of Messrs Bamford, Sukdeo and Visagie who have taken such a liking to the dam Sarabande’s progeny, that they have purchased the lot ! Chesalon drew the 10 berth, carries 58kgs and will be piloted by Jeff Lloyd, still hunting for that elusive July win.
Vaughan Marshall has not won the July, but his yard is enjoying a spectacular run of success and he saddles two contenders for the late Roy Eckstein. The first of these is ultra-consistent 5YO Tales of Bravery. Felix Coetzee (with 3 Julys to his credit) piloted this Kahal gelding on his first few outings and is thrilled to be in the hot seat again on July day. He will be carrying a set of blinkers, 59.5kgs and has drawn 15th.
The second Eckstein flag bearer is 4 YO Top Seller and Vaughan is quietly confident about this colt. Although sire Al Mufti (who conceded defeat by the narrowest of margins to Flaming Rock in 1991) is no longer with us, the Parkers still have a strong July connection in 2010 winner Bold Silvano, who will stand his first season at Ascot. MJ Byleveld retains the ride. Top Seller will be carrying 56.5kgs and has a 17 draw.
Completing the Cape challenge is Crawford Racing. Brett Crawford has some solid experience on his CV and despite only setting up his Philippi business in 2009, saddles no less than 2 runners – Polar Bound and the mighty Jackson.
Polar Bound is a robust 4YO son of Western Winter and counts Brett’s wife Jill as a part owner. Stuart Randolph has been getting to know him and the pair has a no 3 draw and an impost of 57kgs.
Dynasty Destiny ?
Jackson is of course the talking horse and the one that most stables have earmarked as the one to beat. Typically self-deprecating, Brett says ‘if you’d told me two years ago I’d have the favourite for the July I’d have said you were joking!’ The 3YO colt has forged a solid partnership with Karis Teetan (whose acrobatics occasionally have the Stipes a little hot under the collar), carries 57kgs and his 16 draw seems to be the biggest challenge. However, sire Dynasty overcame a 20 draw and despite fighting for his head and racing wide, he produced a scintillating finish to beat Yard-Arm by the best part of a length in 2003.
Dynasty has 2 more representatives in Sage Throne and Beach Beauty.
Dennis Drier is another of racing’s treasures (and of course won the big race back in 1992 with Robbie Sham and Spanish Galliard). A man of relatively few, carefully chosen words, he tells me that Beauty barely measures 15hh, but says that her courage, heart and fantastic action carry her through. She has been allocated 58kgs and a 12 draw and Sean Cormack will take the ride.
In almost direct antithesis to Beach Beauty, Sage Throne is an enormous specimen and Keith Steinberg tells me that ‘there is just something special about this one’. Two Oceans Racing own him in partnership with Robin Scott (of Scott Bros. fame) and he is conditioned by brother Colin. Richard Fourie takes the ride and they will be carrying 55.5kg and have a no 4 berth.
The Scott Bros also bred 3YO Eton Square and stand his sire, Miesque’s Approval. It is worth nothing that Eton Square comes from Miesque’s Approval’s first crop. Gavin van Zyl (the only trainer to have ridden in the race) relates that an injury forced a lengthy layoff just after the colt’s debut run. Although the original target was the KZN Breeders Mile, a gutsy win in the recent Gr3 Jubilee Handicap convinced the connections to set their sights on the July. They enjoy a 5 draw, an impost of 53 kgs and popular Cape jockey Glen Hatt – also on the hunt for his first July victory – will take up the reins.
Another sire to make the log with a first season produce is Graeme Koster’s Rosedene Stud resident, Greys Inn (who won the July back in 2004 for the irrepressible Mrs Oppenheimer). The impressive son of Zabeel has come out firing with Alec Laird’s Varsfontein-bred Royal Bencher (who has already chalked up a Gr1 victory in April’s SA Derby). Alec concedes that Jackson is their main headache and concedes ruefully that if they struggled against him in the Daily News with a 4kg concession, 2kgs for the July trip does not inspire a lot of confidence, but they have a no. 7 draw and Brandon Lerena in the saddle. And hey, this is the July, so anything can happen !
I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Tyrone Zackey about his charge, Smanjemanje. First off, I finally got to the bottom of the name, which apparently means ‘current style’. Another Summerhill graduate, Tyrone tells me that this son of Kahal benefitted tremendously from gelding and a short rest. He certainly caught the eye on his comeback, flying across the line in last year’s Victory Moon Stakes for then apprentice Grant van Niekerk. Tyrone retained Grant as the rider and when I remark that they seem to make a good pair, he chuckles that Grant ‘has a relationship with this one !’ A good third in the President’s Champions Challenge seems to point that things are heading in the right direction. Grant will take the reins for his first July ride. They carry 57kgs and have a 11 draw.
The balance of the field is made up of two powerhouse yards with Sean Tarry fielding a ‘team’ of 3 and Mike de Kock saddling 4 of the big race runners.
Since his first win with Ipi Tombe in 2002 (when he got into hot water for jumping on board during the victory celebrations) Mike has become a regular fixture in the No 1 box at Greyville. He found success with Greys Inn in 2004, Bold Silvano in 2010 and of course Igugu last year. He gives himself 4 chances of a hattrick with Gorongosa and Ilha Bela for Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud, Argentinian import Vettel for Ingrid & Markus Jooste and the big black Solo Traveller for Mike Rattray’s Lammerskraal Stud.
This will be the second time Mary Slack’s fabulous black and scarlet silks grace the July field. The first time was with Ilha da Vitoria in 2005 and it is a nice touch that her Fort Wood daughter Ilha Bela carries them again. The July has proved a tough ask for the fairer sex, but Mike de Kock is not one to worry about such trivia and claims 2 of the total 11 fillies’ victories as his own. Greys are always a crowd pleaser and an additional angle to the Ilha story is her jockey engagement. Anthony Delpech is bidding for a staggering 5th July win, as well as a historic hattrick. Lady Luck was not kind with the draw, but with the sex allowance they’ll be carrying 53kgs.
The exotically named filly Gorongosa is by the recently deceased Montjeu (who sired this year’s Epsom Derby winner, Camelot). She’s tough, she can do the trip, she has a 6 draw and she carries 53.5kgs. The Kevin Shea engagement makes this a formidable prospect.
Solo Traveller, the big black 4YO son of Western Winter enjoyed an impressive early career in the Cape and graduated to the MDK string via Snaith Racing. He seems to have lightened up considerably since being gelded. He drew 14 and Muzi Yeni takes the ride.
The final bit of artillery in the de Kock arsenal is Ingrid and Markus Jooste’s Argentinian import, Vettel. He relishes ground and put in a good effort behind Jackson in the Daily News. With an 8 draw and Anton ‘Superman’ Marcus in the driving seat, he is one to watch.
Sean Tarry offers 3 runners and book-ends the field with Whiteline Fever (drawn 1) and Pomodoro, drawn 20.
3YO Whiteline Fever represents Wilgerbosdrift stallion Right Approach and runs in the familiar Chris van Niekerk colours. He has refined since gelding and has been knocking on the door in his last three starts. He is relatively well treated at the weights with 53kgs and Raymond Danielson takes the ride from pole position.
Pomodoro, already being vaunted as a future stallion prospect is the sole representative for the late, great Jet Master. He is a bit of a family project being out of the very useful Golden Apple (who once belonged to brother Mark Tarry). He gets 55kgs, but has the worst of the draw. Only 6 runners have managed to win from the outside draw in recent memory, but Piere Strydom has 2 Julys on his CV will be doing everything possible to maximise their chances.
Mark Tarry has even more of a hand in the last of the Tarry runners. Mark was instrumental in securing Black Minnaloushe for Maine Chance Farms. He was so excited about the stallion that he could not wait for him to complete his stud commitments in New Zealand and secured Gold Onyx for Chris van Niekerk. The colt repaid his faith by winning on debut. He is described as a real Greyville specialist, who likes to be held together for the start, but has a good finish. Gavin Lerena, back from injury and already back on form, gets the no 2 draw and 56kgs.
The people’s champion? A champion trainer? A new stallion? A stallion prospect? A filly, fate or a Dynasty date. An outsider, a dark horse, or possibly both! It is a race in which everyone has a chance.
Don’t miss the gallops this Thursday at 7am. If you can’t make it to Greyville, catch the runners and riders on Tellytrack and pick your favourite.