Justin Snaith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/YOLANDA SAAYMAN
Justin Snaith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/YOLANDA SAAYMAN

The chances of trainer Justin Snaith bettering the record of seven Durban July wins held by Syd Laird are more a probability than a possibility.

Belgarion provided Snaith with his fifth July victory at spectatorless Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday — some feat for a man in his mid-forties.

Legendary trainer Laird, inducted into racing’s Hall Of Fame in 2019, was 64 years old when he died of a heart attack in Cape Town in 1988. His final July success was Politician’s victory in the hands of jockey Bertie Hayden in 1978.

One of the main reasons Snaith is likely to set a new record is simple — he and his brother Jonathan run a slick operation and keep their owners happy. Without loyal owners, any trainer faces an uphill battle.

The perfect example of this came in Saturday’s post-race interview in which Snaith was reluctant to talk about himself. “What really delights me is the horse has won for some wonderful owners, my offshore patrons Alec and Gillian Forster.”

What Snaith could have added — but didn’t — was the following: “Listen, guys, I’ve been banging the drum for nine months that Belgarion will be weighted to win the July. If you didn’t care to listen, that’s not my problem.”

A son of Dynasty who won the July — also from a wide draw — in 2003, Belgarion and third race winner Sovereign Spirit were the fancied horses to win on the 10-race card. If a bookie did not make a big profit on the day, he or she should change professions.

Do It Again made a brave attempt to win SA’s most famous race for a third time in a row, but connections had to settle for the third place cheque of R150,000. Still, the five-year-old's earnings now stand at more than R8.6m.

Turffontein trainer Joe Soma was bullish about a big run from his three-year-old Got The Greenlight and jockey Muzi Yeni got within 0,9 of a length of winning his first July. No 13 and drawn 13, the colt, bred at Nadeson Park Stud, is a progressive son of Gimmethegreenlight and will probably be back for another crack in 2021.

The list of disappointments is a long one and includes Soqrat, Bunker Hunt, Vardy and the 4-1 favourite Rainbow Bridge.

If anyone had suggested to trainer Eric Sands that Golden Ducat would finish in front of Rainbow Bridge, it is likely he would have suggested they had been smoking an illegal substance and should enter rehab.

But that is what happened with Golden Ducat filling fifth place just behind another of Dynasty’s sons It’s My Turn, who at seven years of age was the oldest horse in the race.

Soqrat was the selection of some shrewd pundits and the four-year-old's failure to take a hand in the finish will have disappointed trainer Mike de Kock. He was optimistic of a bold showing before the Aussie import retired to stud but he could manage eighth place.

Both Vardy and Soqrat were trying 2,200m for the first time and the former — a big drifter in the betting market — also failed to feature. The Var gelding has not built on his Queen’s Plate triumph in January.

Bunker Hunt’s inept performance left many — including this writer — speechless. He jumped last from his barrier 14 draw and just about stayed there though passing four stragglers in the home straight.

Perhaps the stipes report will throw some light on the reason for his poor showing, but if nothing is amiss Snaith will surely query why jockey Grant van Niekerk never attempted to improve his position.

Van Niekerk knows from riding on a right-handed track like Sha-Tin in Hong Kong that a horse rarely comes from last to first. If he had circled his field and finished out of the placings, at least his backers would have had a run for their money.

It was a forgettable meeting for champion trainer Sean Tarry with his two July runners Shango and Tierra Del Fuego unplaced in the big race, Caralluma failing to justify favouritism in the grade 2 Golden Slipper and Celtic Sea beaten by 40-1 shot Temple Grafin in the Garden Province Stakes.

The victory by Glen Kotzen’s filly provided jockey Keagan De Melo with his century for the season, yet this was little consolation for punters still running in the jackpot and Pick 6.

Crown Towers failed to put the cherry on the cake for the Snaith camp when beaten in the final event, but the Cape trainer left the course with mission achieved.

In his bid for July history, he may consider the words of former US president Lyndon B Johnson: “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.