Horse Race Picture: ISTOCK
Horse Race Picture: ISTOCK

On the subject of bookmakers, my father made an interesting observation: “Son, did you ever see a bookie driving an old and battered car?”

The answer, of course, is no. Indeed, after Saturday’s results on July day at Hollywoodbets Greyville, the owners of the big betting firms and bookmakers countrywide should be smiling from ear to ear.

A possible scenario between a bookie and his wife might have gone something like this on his return home on Saturday night. Wife: “How was your day, darling?” Husband: “Pretty outstanding. In fact, you know that new car you’ve been wanting — well, I think you can visit the dealership on Monday.”

The horses who failed to reward their backers on Saturday — and put the money in the bookmakers’ pockets — included Got The Greenlight, Linebacker, Rainbow Bridge, Do It Again as well as the two highly regarded fillies Captain’s Ransom and War Of Athena.

Then we must not forget MK’s Pride, backed to 5-4 favourite to get punters out of jail in the Post Merchants. He added to Warren Kennedy’s day of woe by finishing third.

As in most years, the Durban July market had been active for three months. Just a fortnight before the race, the price of the favourite, Got The Greenlight, runner-up in 2020, was 22-10 with Linebacker generally on offer at 9-2.

What transpired on Saturday will have some punters wondering whether it is worth jumping in early with both feet. At one stage, Got The Greenlight was on offer at 33-10 before finally starting at 20-7 (a fraction under 3-1).

Linebacker, who had not put a hoof wrong this year, suddenly became the bookmakers’ biggest liability — an avalanche of support saw Vaughan Marshall’s three-year-old start at the same price (20-7) as Got The Greenlight.

Rainbow Bridge, running in the July for the third time, was a firm 6-1 chance on Friday, but the six-year-old caught a cold in the betting, starting at 10-1. The market got it spot-on again.

There must have been late support for the winner, Kommetdieding, as he was a 14-1 chance around midday on Saturday, but went off at 10-1. Tote players received even less, with Gavin Lerena’s mount paying R8.50 for a win.

This column was possibly the only tipping medium to suggest that Princess Calla — a 9-1 chance in ante-post betting — might put a spoke in the wheel for what was regarded as a “match race” between Captain’s Ransom and War Of Athena in the grade 1 Garden Province Stakes.

The prediction was nearly right, with Princess Calla beaten with the narrowest of margins by 50-1 chance Zarina — after looking at the photo some racing fans went on social media expressing the view that the race should have been declared a dead-heat.

What will be of concern for the many Captain Ransom fans is the fluctuating price about the Justin Snaith inmate. Following her six wins from seven starts, it was no surprise to see an opening call of even money about the Captain Al filly.

However, in small steps, the price began to gradually ease with 16-10 available last Friday before a more serious drift closer to the race with 28-10 freely available. The official starting price was 5-2.

Once again, the market got it right. Captain’s Ransom was never a serious factor and trailed in sixth about three lengths behind the winner. Before the grade 1 contest, the filly’s pilot, Richard Fourie, had declared it would be “no race”. Further ammunition for those who believe jockeys are lousy tipsters.

When the final July field was announced on June 22, this newspaper reported it was “the first year when half of the 18 runners were long shots and none of the nine are likely to win”.

That is exactly how it played out as the horses placed from fifth to nine did not fall into the long-shot category. Fifth home was Rascallion (fancied stablemate of Linebacker), sixth Sovereign Spirit (third in the Met), seventh Cirillo (a 100/3 chance representing champion trainer Sean Tarry), eighth popular runner Rainbow Bridge and ninth She’s A Keeper, the mount of champion jockey Warren Kennedy.

So — in the final analysis when only a handful of horses could secure the first-place July cheque of R1.25m for their owner — the win by Kommetdieding was about as good as it gets for bookies. My father was right, even when the cards are stacked against them, bookies come out on top.

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