Soma – ‘Next Stop Vodacom Durban July’

Decision made for veteran's star galloper

Joey Soma’s multiple Gr1 winning champion Got The Greenlight will not run again before his date with destiny in the Gr1 Vodacom Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville on 3 July.

That was the word from the master trainer in a catch-up with the Sporting Post on Sunday.

The Equus champion had a good blow-out at his Turffontein home-base on Friday and Joey’s over the moon with his progress.

Top trainer Joey Soma – plans all coming together (Pic -Chase Liebenberg)

“I keep saying it. But this horse is just getting stronger every day. I can see it in his work times and his general demeanour and presence. Our plan is to give him a serious gallop at month-end. That will hopefully be at Turffontein before a raceday, and we could look at recording or broadcasting it for the racing public’s benefit. Then it will be his official July gallop on 24 June. After that it’s straight on to the Theatre of Dreams on 3 July!”

The veteran conditioner and his 4yo flyer have been in the forefront of the Vodacom Durban July news after three cracking runs this season produced a Gr2 runner-up cheque, and two Gr1 trophies.

It was Got The Greenlight’s sensational victory in the Premier’s Champions Challenge, billed as the clash of the generations, on 1 May that has had the whole world talking that they may just have witnessed a likely 2021 July winner.

And his trainer’s successful appeal last week against an MR award of 128 following his Premier’s win has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons.

A panel upheld the protest by Mr Soma and the Gimmethegreenlight five-time Gr1 winner will likely line up lumping 55kgs in the big race,  off his new rating of 124.

Joey said that while there may be valid arguments in some quarters to pack away the 134 year history and convert the Durban July to a ‘straightforward’ weight-for-age race, he felt that the change could be both good and bad for racing – and that the event would lose some of its mystique and aura.

“The July is a race that every owner, trainer and breeder aspires to win and it’s the build-up debate and the twists and turns, as much as the race itself, that make it what it is for stakeholders and the racing public. One doesn’t just turn up. It’s teamwork, tactics, strategy, long-term planning and programming. Sometimes dreams pan out, sometimes they don’t. Our plan has worked  this year – but it’s a long way yet to that victory canter-past!” he laughs.

Explaining the decision not to run again prior to the big race, Joey said that the Vodacom Durban July was their designated target from the moment Got The Greenlight ran second in the race in 2020, and that it would be folly to give away any advantage at this late stage of the game.

“It was tough resisting the temptation to take on horses he had beaten while they were winning races earlier this season. The partnership would say, ‘hell we should be there’. But we stuck to our guns and we are now within just over six weeks of a plan come together!”

The Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge is an obvious final stepping stone into the July.

“I see the sponsors Hollywoodbets have commendably stepped up and doubled the stake to R1 million. So it’s tempting. But I’m sure we would finish in the top three and do we risk that and then jeopardise our goal of a July victory?”

He points out that the decision to take the weight ‘discount’ and sacrifice a run had it’s own inherent risks.

“History may yet prove us wrong. But we have given it plenty of thought. We feel we can do it with good homework, and I believe I will have him fit and firing on 3 July.”

Muzi Yeni and Got The Greenlight – set for a massive effort on 3 July (Pic -Chase Liebenberg)

On the sportsmanship of appealing his 128 rating, Joey is adamant that he is merely playing within the rules.

“It’s my job as a trainer to optimise my horse’s opportunities to win races. Our merit rating appeal was merely exercising an option available to us within the structure and system. We always maintain our professional respect for the handicappers, irrespective of whether we enjoy their decisions and whichever way the cookie crumbles. And after the Classic last year I called the handicappers and pointed out that our boy had to be better than the likes of Ikigai and Shango. But they had their own ideas and their processes.”

When asked if he felt in his heart of hearts whether his charge was a 124 or closer to a 128, Joey laughs.

“Got The Greenlight has been top of his class in his 2yo, 3yo and 4yo season. After three Gr1 victories, he wasn’t even our highest rated 3yo of the term – that was Dean Kannemeyer’s African Warrior. He ran under a length behind Belgarion under sufferance in the July last year. Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge were behind him. Ten months and three races each down the line, Belgarion is a 130 and my horse, now a five-time Gr1 winner, is a 124. Work it out for yourself!”

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