Final shot: Made To Conquer with Jeff Lloyd in the saddle, gallops at Greyville. Lloyd, who retires at the end of July, will be in the saddle of the Justin Snaith-trained horse in the July. Picture: CANDIESE MARNEWICK, GOLD CIRCLE
Final shot: Made To Conquer with Jeff Lloyd in the saddle, gallops at Greyville. Lloyd, who retires at the end of July, will be in the saddle of the Justin Snaith-trained horse in the July. Picture: CANDIESE MARNEWICK, GOLD CIRCLE

Racing expert Andrew Bon describes the 2018 renewal of the Grade1 Vodacom Durban July over 2,200m at Greyville on Saturday as "a puzzle of extraordinary proportions".

Arguably, however, the contest in SA’s flagship race is wide open. From the top down, all runners in the field have merits and all have their fair share of public support.

Every year there is a case to be made for "going with your gut". The July is that kind of race, an annual assembly of pretty names for most, an in-depth study for form experts, a reflection of chances on bookmakers’ boards and a throw of bones for sangomas.

And then, the unpredictable race itself. The July is an event built around big dreams, many of which have been realised since the first running of the race in 1897, many others broken.

Most will agree that 2018’s greatest July dream centres on 56-year-old jockey Jeffrey Lloyd, one of the most accomplished riders in South African history who will be retiring in Australia at the end of July.

Lloyd, who has secured his last chance on Justin Snaith-trained four-year-old Made To Conquer said on Wednesday: "When I finished third in my first July in 1978 I thought this would be easy, I’d win a few of them in my career. Forty years and eight third places later I am puzzled why Felix Coetzee, Anton Marcus, Anthony Delpech, Piere Strydom and others have won it a number of times and I haven’t."

Lloyd rode Made To Conquer for the first time in a public gallop on June 28 and said: "He’s a very laid-back horse. He gave me a good feel but I think he’s the type who reserves his best for the race itself."

There was more confidence from Snaith, who said: "He’s a very interesting runner, he looks after himself. The only time he got beat in his last seven runs was after a false start. He went 500m and was spooked by a snake on the track. He gets the trip and being drawn 12 is just about perfect. He is a serious contender and capable of winning with 53kg."

Snaith expressed confidence too about his four other runners, especially the favourite African Night Sky and three-year-old Do It Again.

He could well fill the first three places, something last achieved in 1990 when Terrance Millard ran 1-2-3 with Illustrador, Olympic Duel and Jungle Warrior.

It is a guessing game, as always, but there is more than enough motivation to join the legion of Lloyd followers in 2018’s sentimental Durban July choice: Made To Conquer.

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