July Reflections – Nostalgia And Drama Aplenty

A walk down memory lane

As we continue our nostalgic walk down the Hollywoodbets Durban July memory lane, one thing is certain, the most recent decade lacked for nothing in drama and splendour.

From a successful objection, to a first winning lady trainer in over a century, maiden July successes for a black jockey and an owner of colour, it all added to the colourful fabric and allure of Africa’s greatest race.

Pomodoro (Piere Strydom) holds off Smanjemanje under Grant van Niekerk in 2012

Pomodoro (Piere Strydom) holds off Smanjemanje under Grant van Niekerk in 2012 (Pic – Supplied)

But let’s start our journey in 2011. Twelve months after Bold Silvano gave Sheikh

Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum a first success in the famed race, his silks again adorned the winner’s enclosure following the convincing victory by standout filly Igugu.

Raced in partnership with Andre and Joyce McDonald, the Australian-bred three-year-old entered the July off a dominant four-win tour de force in the Triple Tiara and Gr1 Woolavington 2000.

Sent off a warm favourite, she moved in for the kill 300m from home, to a mighty roar from the Greyville crowd. Challengers were lining up, yet this remarkable daughter of Galileo kept finding more and fought off all comers to cross the line a length to the good.

She gave trainer Mike de Kock a fourth July success and joined Ipi Tombe as his second distaff winner. And just like his two other winners, Greys Inn (2004) and Bold Silvano (2010), she was partnered by Anthony Delpech.

SA Derby winner Pomodoro overcame the extreme outside draw to claim the biggest prize of his career in the 2012 Durban July, thereby providing the owner/trainer team of Sean Tarry and Chris van Niekerk with a first victory in the country’s premier race. For winning jockey Piere ‘Striker’ Strydom, it was a third July success, having guided London News (1996) and Trademark (2001) to victory in the glamour event.

Pomodoro stalked the pacesetters before storming into the lead at the top of the straight and although briefly headed, he rallied tenaciously and in a pulsating finish, the son of Jet Master found extra to snatch victory on the line, thus emulating previous winners Flaming Rock and Dynasty, who had scored from the same position.

High drama as Wylie Hall (MJ Byleveld) and Legislate (Richard Fourie) go head to in 2014 – it went to the boardroom

High drama as Wylie Hall (MJ Byleveld) and Legislate (Richard Fourie) go head to in 2014 – it went to the boardroom (Pic – Supplied)

Tarry and Van Niekerk made it back-to-back July victories twelve months later, courtesy of Heavy Metal’s fiercely contested triumph, which saw him prevail in a thrilling, three-way finish. It was an historical moment in South African racing, with winning rider S’manga Khumalo being the first black jockey to win the coveted prize.

In a dramatic twist, the following year’s July was decided in the boardroom, resulting in the first successful objection since 1994 winner Surfing Home was disqualified twenty years previously.

Wylie Hall and Legislate had locked horns fully 300m out and in a protracted duel, during which they came together on a couple of occasions, the former tenaciously maintained his advantage to finish a head in front of his younger adversary. The hooter sounded when Legislate’s jockey Richard Fourie lodged an objection.

The general consensus on course was that the result would stand but after lengthy deliberation by the stipendiary stewards, the race was awarded to the runner-up on the grounds of interference in the straight.

The 2015 renewal of the July was a rare triumph for Maine Chance Farms and resident champion Silvano, breeder and sire respectively of the first three across the line.

Victory went to Power King, who led home paternal half-brothers Punta Arenas and Tellina.

The winner came roaring into the lead 300m from home under Stuart Randolph and appeared to drift towards the stand side where Punta Arenas uncorked a strong rally. The pair made contact inside the final furlong, but Power King regained his stride and drew clear in the closing stages to score by the best part of a length, with Tellina rounding out a dream result for breeder and stallion.

It was a maiden July win for owner Lady Laidlaw on her very first visit to the Durban track, whereas trainer Dean Kannemeyer had previously tightened the girth on Dynasty (2003) and Eyeofthetiger (2006).

Unheralded 20-1 shot The Conglomerate joined the Gr1 ranks with a career-best effort in the 2016 July contested at the packed, if chilly, Durban track.

Marinaresco (Bernard Fayd’herbe) wins in 2017 to make it a big moment for lady trainer Candice Bass-Robinson

Marinaresco (Bernard Fayd’herbe) wins in 2017 to make it a big moment for lady trainer Candice Bass-Robinson (Pic – Supplied)

Having overcome the widest draw of all, the Australian-bred raced within striking distance of the leaders and when jockey Pierre Strydom popped the question, he quickly moved into the lead before holding off three-year-old Marinaresco by a fast-diminishing neck.

Twelve months later, top weight Marinaresco laid the ghost of his second place to rest when he powered home to score in a humdinger finish, where a blanket could have covered the first seven home.

Ridden by Bernard Fayd’Herbe, the four-year-old progressed from mid-field at the top of the straight and finding a timely split, unleashed a whirlwind finish to prevail from favourite and Gr1 SA Derby winner Al Sahem, thus providing his sire Silvano with the exacta, two years after his magnificent trifecta.

Trainer Candice Bass-Robinson, in her first season as a fully-fledged trainer after taking over the reins from her father, maestro Mike Bass, stepped into the history books as the first woman to win the Durban July in its 120-year history.

In 2018, the winner of South Africa’s premier race came from the powerful stable of Justin Snaith in the shape of his lesser fancied three-year-old Do It Again, who took top honours in a slow-run race under Anton Marcus.

Fast forward to 2019, and the four-year-old lived up to his name when he came with a wet sail to run down dual arch rival Rainbow Bridge in the shadow of the post to become the first back-to-back winner since El Picha completed the double in the millennium year.

For stalwart owner/breeders Alec and Gillian Foster, the stars also aligned in the 2020 July, as their four-year-old homebred Belgarion provided them with a well-deserved first success.

With the world firmly in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, the race was moved from its traditional ‘first Saturday in July’ position to the end of the month.

To add further intrigue to these extraordinary circumstances, the event took place behind closed doors, which meant Belgarion stormed home in front of eerily quiet and empty stands. In winning the coveted race, he emulated his sire Dynasty, who won it back in 2003 and also sired Legislate, the promoted winner in 2014.

Piere Strydom overcame a wide draw to win in 2016 on The Conglomerate

Piere Strydom overcame a wide draw to win in 2016 on The Conglomerate (Pic – Supplied)

Kommetdieding’s victory in 2021 proved a refreshing triumph for the minnows, at a time when a handful of large, powerful outfits dominated local racing.

A first July runner for both coloured owner Ashwin Reynolds and the training team of Harold Crawford and daughter Michelle Rix, Kommetdieding raced wide throughout but produced a withering run and in a pulsating dash for the line, gamely held on to record a first top level victory.

In 2022, Wilgerbosdrift owner Mary Slack, breeder of 2003 winner Dynasty, led in her very first Durban July winner, homebred Sparkling Water, thus continuing a fine family tradition, given that her parents Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer had won the race no less than six times.

The only female runner in the line-up, Sparkling Water stalked the early pace and scooted clear of her male rivals in the home straight to earn her Gr1 spurs by an empathic three lengths.

The fifth July winner sired by Silvano, she also broke an eleven-year drought for maestro Mike de Kock, whose previous success came with champion Igugu in 2011.

Last year’s July was all about Drakenstein Stud. Having assembled an impressive army of five contestants, it was homebred Winchester Mansion who stepped up to the plate and he outdueled favourite and fellow Drakenstein-bred See It Again after a tremendous tussle over the final furlong.

Whereas Drakenstein were partners in 2014 winner Legislate, Winchester Mansion is their first July success as a breeder, whilst it was also a first for his sire Trippi, trainer Brett Crawford and jockey Kabelo Matsunyane.

On Saturday, Winchester Mansion will renew rivalry with old adversary See It Again when he returns to Hollywoodbets Greyville to defend his crown.


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