Whether you are looking for a slice of the action of the projected R6 million Pick 6 pool, fancy a flutter on a filly, showing your paces in the infamous thirteenth race, or are just keen on a great party and a good day out, then Greyville racecourse in Durban was the place to be on Saturday.
The 116th Durban July was run in front of a capacity crowd exceeding 55 000.
The July is one of the major money spinners for the racing operators and bookmakers, with over R300 million wagered on the day. The July, carded as the seventh race, will attract R40 million, with R20 million being wagered on the course itself.
Twenty horses go to post with the three year old Jackson the current favourite, with as much as 2-1 available – depending of course on the generosity of your bookmaker.
Most of South Africa’s leading stables are represented, but notable exceptions this year include Cape trainers Justin Snaith, Joey Ramsden, Dean Kannemeyer, Glen Kotzen and Gauteng based St John Gray.Not unusually, champion trainer Mike De Kock is the most represented with four runners. De Kock’s filly Ilha Bela is the only grey in the race and together with the smart Montjeu mare Gorongosa, bids to give leading stud, Wilgerbosdrift, a first July winner.
Jockey Anthony Delpech bids for a remarkable winning hat-trick after partnering Bold Silvano and Igugu to victory. Trainer Mike De Kock joins the Seychelles-born jockey in the illustrious record-breaking attempt.
Karl Neisius is the oldest jockey riding this year, and he last won it in 1991 on the Chris Snaith-trained Flaming Rock. Gerrit Schlechter and Greg Cheyne are the only two jockeys to have won the race in the 21st century, who will not be riding this year.
Tyrone Zackey’s Smanjemanje is the only horse who will run in steel shoes this year. There are seven genuine Gauteng visitors and the boys outnumber the girls by 17 to 3. Jackson, Top Seller and the Argentinian-bred Vettel are the only three potential future stallions.
Sixteen of the twenty runners are locally bred, with Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Ireland providing the foreign bred participants.
The July was filmed for the first time in 1917 and the 80th running in 1976 was beamed live into millions of homes for the first time via television, which commenced on 5 January of that year in South Africa .
We have come a long way since and the brilliant father and son commentary team of Craig(a race-caller for over 35 years) and Sheldon Peters will be calling the 2012 race on Tellytrack and the free to air national broadcaster, SABC3.
They have the distinction of being the first father and son team in the world to call a Grade 1 race at the same time and venue, a feat they accomplished at the 2005 Vodacom Durban July.
The first July commentary relayed over the Greyville Public Address system was by the legendary Ernie Duffield in 1948, when Monasterevan won the race . Duffield suggested that the 1952 Mowgli-Radlington tussle was the greatest July finish he had witnessed.
Duffield called the July 29 times between 1947 and 1975. He retired in 1976, when he watched the race from the grandstand. The Durban Turf Club caused some embarrassment as the sponsors, Rothmans, had a momento engraved to hand over to Duffield, as they had assumed he would call his thirtieth July. The man with the machine-gun voice nevertheless accepted the trophy with good grace. He had sadly become a relic in a technologically advancing world.
The brilliant fifteen-time winning legend Sea Cottage dead-heated with Jollify in one of the most memorable finishes in history in 1967. In 2008, multiple Met and Queen’s Plate winner Pocket Power dead-heated with the grey filly Dancer’s Daughter.
There is also something for everybody. If tradition is upheld, the twelve equine races will be followed by the unofficial thirteenth race- a scantily clad 100m romp in front of the grandstands, by mostly inebriated revellers.
This tradition was started in the early 1980’s and even attracted a sponsor through the local Bonkers Night Club. The Bonkers’ Floating Willie trophy was run for the first time under lights on the occasion of the 100th running of the Rothmans July in 1996.
This race has dented reputations and pride over the years, and also cost many a brave man his partner. You have been warned!