Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH

A Durban July with no razzmatazz? Can you Adam and Eve it? We’re talking about SA’s most famous race, which over the years has seen royalty and top personalities make the trip to Greyville racecourse.  

1925: During his three-month stay from the end of April until the end of July, the Prince Of Wales — later to abdicate as King Edward VIII — attended the Durban July and received a rapturous reception at the track.

1947: Fast forward 22 years and, in March, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret got the same warm greeting as they were driven on the course in an open car.

First run in 1897, the July is one of the country’s great sporting events and annually attracts a huge crowd who come to watch the top horses from various provinces race against one another.

In 2005 Michel Nairac, CEO of Gold Circle, a position he holds today, was asked by a reporter of the likely crowd for the race. He replied: “Interest in the day has grown to such an extent that we don’t know where to put people.”

Covid-19 has ensured that is not the scenario in 2020. So now the day relies on the presenters, commentators and the TV crews rising to the occasion and providing expert coverage for stuck-at-home racing fans.

Their task will be to somehow drum up some razzmatazz, but that will not be easy with the usual fashion shows going virtual and none of those huge hats that invariably make the front page of the Sunday Times.

This year’s theme is “Butterflies”, and designer Karen Monk Klijnstra has an optimistic slant on the day. She said: “We have all been cocooning like a butterfly. It’s about reinventing and renewal and soaring for new dreams and new possibilities.”

The dream of the 18 jockeys taking part in the race will be to put their names in the July record book — something not new to Anton Marcus, who has won the 2,200m event five times.

Richard Fourie has won the race twice — Legislate (2014) and Do It Again (2019) — and he will be hoping ruling favourite Belgarion can provide him with a third winner and trainer Justin Snaith with a fifth.

Stuart Randolph, successful on Power King in 2015, knows his way around the Greyville circuit as well as anyone, but he will be aware his mount, Divine Odyssey, isn’t given much chance of upsetting the likes of Rainbow Bridge, Belgarion and Vardy.

But what of Mike de Kock’s runner Soqrat? The many-times champion trainer reports “He’s doing great” and it is noticeable the Aussie import has shortened from 14-1 to 12-1 in latest betting.

De Kock has won the July four times, scoring with Ipi Tombe (2002), Greys Inn (2004), Bold Silvano (2010) and Igugu (2011). Victory on Saturday would put him only two behind the late, great Syd Laird with his record of seven wins.

Before Saturday’s meeting in KwaZulu-Natal, there is an eight-race card at Turffontein, with the star attraction being SA Derby winner Out Of Your League taking on his elders in the seventh race over 2,000m.

Trainer Fabian Habib’s three-year-old started at 45-1 for the Derby so only the gelding’s connections and bookies cheered him home. Another Derby winner, Hero’s Honour, is in the 10-runner field, but Out Of Your League is likely to have most to fear from four-year-old Marshall Foch.

Trainer Paul Peter has booked Piere Strydom for the ride and his mount boasts outstanding form with four wins and two seconds in his last six outings.

SELECTIONS

1st Race: (9) Lyrical Dance (2) Courtney Leigh (6) Hey Gorgeous (10) Nina Amelia

2nd Race: (2) National Liberty (10) Valyrian King (5) Phinda Mzala (3) Navarino Bay

3rd Race: (14) Swindon’s Pride (9) Frozen Palace (2) Shenandoah River (3) Quest For Good

4th Race: (6) Flashlight (1) Virocana (3) Stunning (7) American Crusade

5th Race: (4) Palace Assembly (6) Grindelwald (2) Rock Of Africa (8) Duke Of Swing

6th Race: (2) Shadow Creek (6) Riga D’Ora (7) Shortstop (5) Bold Matador

7th Race: (6) Marshall Foch (3) Out Of Your League (10) Secret Potion (1) Hero’s Honour

8th Race: (1) Saving Grace (4) Nabeela (3) Ginseng (2) Acorn Alley

DURBAN JULY BETTING

(Supplied by bookmaker Lance Michael)

15-4 Belgarion

5-1 Rainbow Bridge

8-1 Got The Greenlight

9-1 Bunker Hunt

12-1 Soqrat, Do It Again, Vardy

20-1 Golden Ducat

22-1 Shango

25-1 Twist Of Fate

33-1 Tierra Del Fuego

40-1 Others

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