Will The Title Return To The Kingdom Of The Zulu On Saturday?

It may just be a KZN year!

It’s hard to believe that KwaZulu-Natal last tasted victory in Africa’s Greatest Race 29 years ago, a race day on which the province scooped all honours.

1995 Rothmans July winner, Teal

1995 Rothmans July winner, Teal under jockey Johnny Geroudis (Pic – Supplied)

Here’s a bit of July History! 

With the 2024 Hollywoodbets Durban July just days away, KZN will face yet another opportunity to end the July drought.

But, everyone knows, this is not Africa’s Premier Horserace for nothing – every renewal is tough, with the country’s very best lining up, bringing in formidable competition from every province.

The diminutive TEAL (Foveros x Northern Banner), bred by Alan and Vera Sutherland’s former Somerset Stud based in the KZN’s Midlands, was the victor in 1995 when at relatively un-fancied odds, the little chestnut gelding thrilled the home crowd with the remarkable career-win under jockey Johnny Geroudis.

Listen to Johnny’s thoughts here.

Will the trophy return to the host province in 2024?

Flag Man at the 2024 Gallops at Hollywoodbets Greyville

Flag Man (Serino Moodley) at the 2024 Gallops at Hollywoodbets Greyville (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Clifton Stud-bred Flag Man, is an unfashionably bred 3-year-old son of the disregarded Flying The Flag (Galileo) out of the Mark Of Esteem mare, making his a pedigree that deserves respect.

He has shot up the ranks in a short 9-month career, with a race record of 3 wins and 2 seconds from 6 starts. His last run was a close 2nd in the Gr1 Daily News 2000, which greatly boosted his merit ratings from 96 to an impressive 126.

On 6 July, Flag Man will shoulder 55,5kg from gate 17. While is may be a less than favourable draw, he has shown an ability to overcome the wide barrier quite well.

He has as good a chance as any and is certainly loaded with the bloodline and potential to succeed. Running against s strong field, should he not win but run into the money, it would be considered a “victory” in itself.

The Van Zyl Yard and pilot Serino Moodley have expressed absolute faith in their charge’s ability and Flag Man has made a huge impression so far.

Purple Pitcher is certainly making history for SA horseracing

Purple Pitcher is certainly making history for SA horseracing (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Another KZN contender, Bush Hill Stud-bred Purple Pitcher

Purple Pitcher, bred at Bush Hill Stud, by the ill-fated New Predator (New Approach), has similarly risen to prominence in a short period of time. With just over a year of racing experience, he boasts an impressive career record of 7 wins and 3 places from 13 starts, including two Grade 1’s.

He will be jumping from stall 8 with just 53kg off  a generous merit rating of 120. Purple Pitcher appears to have an outstanding chance of delivering a competitive performance on race day.

His place in the race is wonderfully ground-breaking for SA Horseracing as he leads the way as the first black-owned horse. Owner Mr Pooe, has made it no secret that he believes in his horses’ ability to succeed over ground and it could be a sweet day for many reasons were his horse to win.

Purple Pitcher is trained by Robyn Klaasen and new pilot, Philasande Mxoli will be taking the ride on Saturday.

Royal Victory wins the 2023 Gr1 Betway Summer Cup

Royal Victory wins the 2023 Gr1 Betway Summer Cup (Pic – 4Racing)

Whilst not in the same KZN-bred category, Royal Victory is very much a KZN-horse who comes into this race with arguably his stars perfectly aligned.

A fairytale in its own making for numerous good reasons. KZN fans would no doubt be equally jubilant were he to finish ahead of the rest.

However, their jubilation is unlikely to surpass that of his doting connections, who know how to celebrate.

Everything appears to have gone well in his preparation for the big race day, which has been patiently and smartly executed by the Team behind him.

Should it not work out as planned, it would not be for reasons within their or the horse’s control. This Team means business and Royal Victory knows exactly what to do, having already proven his racing class. It is as good a winning formula as the best of them.

See It Again displayed good form at the Gallops

See It Again at the officila big race gallops last Thursday (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Another out-of-province, See It Again can be forgivably described as being “umbilically” associated with KZN through his superstar trainer and internationally acclaimed former jockey Sir Michael “Muis” Roberts and his owner Nic Jonsson, a home-bred boy from an illustrious KZN Horseracing Family.

In the 1995 Sporting Post article, it ironically refers to the sale, that year, of an arbitrary yearling  co-incidentally bred by Nic’s uncle in KZN, who has turned out to be one of South Africa’s most outstanding racehorses and sires of all time.

Kwazulu-Natal’s hand in this year’s Durban July is ambitious, competitive and realistic with all four horses giving the home fan base much to be excited about.

If successful, 6 July will be a timeous boost for a Province that has seen a steady decline in its breeding ranks in line with the general national industry. However, no discussion of fact can ever be fair without balancing it in the positive too.

As occurs in investment circles, the local breeding industry appears to have “flushed and bottomed out” with encouraging signs of a resurgence with the KZN Breeders Club.

The Province’s Breeding NPO has been “cleaning house” and their efforts have been boosted by the addition of a new breeder in Jabulani Estates, situated in the non-traditional Southern KZN Coastal area – another historical first.

The final ace in the KZN hand is the that big race sponsor Hollywoodbets, one of the saviours and a significant sponsor of SA Horseracing, has its roots and headquarters in the province.

For Hollywoodbets and their very large staff family, a KZN-linked victory in their hometown would also be extra special.

Above all else, let’s pray for another festival of excellent racing, that the lights stay on, the favourites are not scratched and, most importantly, that every horse comes home safe.

Were it not for the horse none of this would be possible!

  • Editorial by kind courtesy of Ethanicity Research, a private & independent SA Horseracing Research Agency.

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