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Muzi Yeni. Picture: GALLO IMAGES / FOTO24 / DEON FERREIRA
Muzi Yeni. Picture: GALLO IMAGES / FOTO24 / DEON FERREIRA

When Muzi Yeni retired to bed on Saturday night there would have been one thought on his mind — is this the year I win my first Durban July?

The 35-year-old will have applauded S’manga Khumalo’s win on Heavy Metal in 2013 and — ever since — will have been keen to follow in his footsteps.

Now — as a result of Safe Passage’s authoritative win in Saturday’s grade 1 Daily News 2000 at HollywoodbetsGreyville — the popular jockey is associated with a horse who ticks a lot of boxes for the big race on July 2.

Yeni will be aware that Safe Passage’s trainer Mike de Kock has a good record in SA’s most famous race and it’s interesting that the former champion conditioner provided him with his first winner as a jockey.

In 2009 Yeni did manage fourth in the July on Mike Bass’s runner Thundering Jet when Greg Cheyne took the winner’s sash on Big City Life.

“He’s a horse who gives you goosebumps,” enthused Yeni in the post-race interview after the Daily News and De Kock was also full of praise for the son of Silvano owned and bred by Drakenstein Stud.

“He’s a really good athlete — a proper racehorse,” said De Kock about the three-year-old who now boasts a career record of six wins from nine starts including feature race wins in the Dingaans and Gauteng Guineas.

Of course, racing fans will be confused why Yeni got the ride instead of Khumalo who has ridden Safe Passage in each of his previous three starts. One can speculate that Khumalo has indicated that De Kock’s star filly Sparkling Water is his preferred choice for the July.

Khumalo is also the regular pilot of Queen’s Plate victor Jet Dark, but there has been no confirmation from the Justin Snaith camp that the colt will accept for the July.

What punters do know is that Pomp And Power’s prospects for the July took a step backwards despite edging out Arogosta for the runner-up berth on Saturday.

In contrast to Safe Passage, who drifted from 7-2 to 11-2, there was an avalanche of support for Pomp And Power who started odds-on at 77-100.

Bookmaker reaction to the result was for sponsors Hollywoodbets to push Pomp And Power out to 6.25 and make Safe Passage the new favourite at 3.57-1. Bookmaker Lance Michael has Saturday’s winner at 4-1.

Those backers in the corner of Waterberry Lane for the July will feel the gelding’s fourth placing (beaten 2.25 lengths after being backed in to 11-2) was a reasonable effort, but Senso Unico was beaten six lengths and may not make the final field.

It proved another red-letter day for Drakenstein Stud as Silver Darling and Light Of The Moon provided them with a 1-2 finish in the grade 1 Woolavington 2000.

Ridden by Grant van Niekerk who seemed to get lost in traffic on One Way Traffic in the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup, Silver Darling won in good style to notch the fourth win of her career. Her full-brother Groovjet — a late foal — was withdrawn from last month’s National Yearling Sales in Germiston.

Shango has proved a good servant for Sean Tarry’s stable and the Captain Of All gelding took his earnings to more than R880,000 when capturing the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup under a fine ride from Gavin Lerena.

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