Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement of the final field for the 2017 Vodacom Durban July, trainer Justin Snaith has sent a public message — via the media — to the Gold Circle Selection Panel who have the job of reducing the field to 18 runners.

Worried that his four-year-old Black Arthur will not get an invitation to SA’s most famous race on July 1, Snaith said: "If he does not get in, I hope it is because they have found a good one and not just a horse who has no chance.

"Black Arthur is proven at group level and he has had a perfect preparation. Just about every punter out there knows he is a horse who can win the race," said Snaith.

Every year the July panel end up getting flak from the media and pundits. A year ago, they controversially did not invite two Highveld horses, Deo Juvente and Trophy Wife.

It led to trainer Sean Tarry commenting on Trophy Wife’s omission that "Gold Circle should be named Gold Circus".

Snaith has made no secret of the fact that winning the Durban July has been his major objective for months and, apart from possibly Black Arthur, he has back-up in the form of former Investec Derby victor It’s My Turn, Elusive Silva and rambambuli.

It is believed Snaith’s talented filly Bela-Bela might miss the July and rather contest the grade1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes in which Snaith could also be represented by Star Express and Gimme Six.

If the July panel follow the route they took in 2014, then Black Arthur will probably get the green light to run. In that year, Futura was invited despite finishing only third behind One Cool Dude and Serissa in the grade3 Cup Trial.

Third was Black Arthur’s finishing place in this year’s Cup Trial, but Snaith can argue it was a good effort considering the weight Black Arthur was giving his rivals.

Futura vindicated his inclusion by running third and — a year ago — the panel invited both The Conglomerate and Saratoga Dancer and were rewarded by seeing these two horses run first and fifth.

The panel could spring a surprise by not inviting one or two horses who have shown nothing of late — the Cup Trial performances of Master Sabina, French Navy, Brazuca and Saratoga Dancer can only be described as dismal. This quartet have all retreated to big odds in the ante-post market.

Some of the jockey arrangements will influence where punters put their money and Piere Strydom — successful on The Conglomerate a year ago — has been confirmed for Snaith’s runner It’s My Turn. Strydom is bidding to win the race for the fifth time.

Also chasing a fifth victory is Anthony Delpech who — after stating that he would ride Black Arthur — now seems certain to partner Sean Tarry’s three-year-old, Al Sahem. This will leave Grant van Niekerk — second in 2016 — the chance to partner Black Arthur.

Brett Crawford, enjoying his best season as a trainer, nearly won the 2002 July with Angus, but he has prospects of getting it right this time with the ruling 9-2 favourite Edict Of Nantes.

Frankie Dettori won the Investec Cape Derby on the three-year-old at Kenilworth in January and Crawford said his charge "is in great shape".

If Bela-Bela takes her chance in the Garden Province Stakes, this 1,600m grade1 race could be the highlight of the meeting with Tibouchina Stakes heroine Just Sensual likely to be sent off favourite to beat a star-studded field which could include Polyphonic, Final Judgement and a trio from Snaith’s stable.

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