The Conglomerate as pictured on the official betting sheet
Everyone's favourite - The Conglomerate as pictured on the official betting sheet

TENS of thousands of jobs have been created. Billions of rands have changed hands, driving the economy. Tax has been collected. All this good stuff comes courtesy of two minutes of nonsense on a wintry patch of grass in downtown Durbs on the first Saturday in July.

It used to be a wooden post stuck in the turf, now it’s a hairline bisecting the lens of a photo-finish camera, but it’s that marker in time and space that keeps the whole shebang rolling

The Vodacom Durban July is the pinnacle of horseracing in South Africa, so victory in this one goddamn race is the primary impulse behind an entire industry; indeed, several aligned industries.

Millions of hours of thoroughbred bloodline research, frenetic humping in mating sheds, umpteen bags of oats eaten, acres of grass grazed, countless barrowloads of dung carted away, early mornings, broken bones, jockeys, trainers, farmers, grooms, vets, stipes, farriers, punters, bookmakers, writers, despondency, elation, hard-luck stories, tales of redemption…the end-point of this astonishing fandango is the finishing line at Greyville racecourse. It used to be a wooden post stuck in the turf, now it’s a hairline bisecting the lens of a photo-finish camera, but it’s that marker in time and space that keeps the whole shebang rolling.

The July is a powerful thing.

We approach it once more – the 120th running tomorrow – with eagerness and a little trepidation. What if we back the wrong horse? Bollocks to that; take a prudent plunge and have some fun.

Here’s what I make of the line-up: (Number, name,
draw, jockey, odds):


1 Marinaresco 9 (Bernard Fayd’Herbe) 16-1
Good horse, second place last year and loves Greyville. But he hasn’t quite recaptured his spark and carries a big weight for a diminutive fellow.

2 French Navy 16 (Lyle Hewitson) 33-1
Once a speedboat, but seems to be leaking below the waterline these days.

3 Master Sabina 4 (MJ Byleveld) 50-1
Grand old man with two Summer Cups to his name. Remember, age and guile usually beat youth and bad haircuts.

4 Brazuca 20 (Gavin Lerena) 40-1
Jockey flies out from the UK to try to overcome a starting pozzie in a North Beach deck chair, on a horse with stamina doubts. Hope floats.

5 Krambambuli 19 (Aldo Domeyer) 50-1
You’ll win a fortune. And Zumas can fly…

6 Saratoga Dancer 7 (Craig Zackey) 30-1
Did well last year at long odds, but has struggled to win lately.

7 The Conglomerate 3 (Callan Murray) 17-2
Defending July champ. History shows it’s tough to double up but, despite his name, he’s mercurial. Chance with good draw and top young jockey.

8 It’s My Turn 17 (Piere Strydom) 17-2
It might be his turn, especially with “Striker” in the saddle bidding for a record fifth July victory. Lack of recent action a negative.

9 Ten Gun Salute 5 (Muzi Yeni) 17-2
Sauciest name in the game. Upstanding chap has found stiff support in the betting market. Hard not to jump on board.

10 Nightingale 6 (Anthony Delpech) 16-1
One of two fillies in the field. Girls occasionally win the July and she has attracted punters’ money, but will have to be extraordinary to succeed with her handicap here.

11 Black Arthur 8 (Grant van Niekerk) 5-1
Scraped onto the invitation list, yet there are dogs barking about him having regained his mojo. Backed into second favourite, but a stamina question mark hovers.

12 Edict Of Nantes 13 (Anton Marcus) 11-2
Hear ye: brilliant three-year-old, brilliant jockey aiming for the five-July record, trainer Brett Crawford in hot form. Mystifyingly, he’s drifted in the betting. He will go close. That’s an edict.

13 Al Sahem 1 (S’Manga Khumalo) 9-2
The race favourite’s name is “The Arrow” in Arabic. The bow propelling it is crack trainer Sean Tarry and at the pointy end is a very sharp rider. Take cover.

14 Mr Winsome (Warren Kennedy) 16-1
Lose some. Seriously, though, this tall, bay and handsome fella is a charmer. A must for exotic bets.

15 SCRATCHED

16 Pagoda 14 (Chase Maujean)
28-1
Don’t bump your head.

17 Tilbury Fort 11 (Greg Cheyne) 33-1

Just don’t.

18 Safe Harbour 12 (Nooresh Juglall) 22-1
Another filly, this one carrying a handier weight.

19 Horizon 18 (Richard Fourie) 20-1
Reserve off the bench after a scratching. Recouping his R5.2-million purchase price is way over the horizon and might remain so for a while, thanks to a starting gate outside a nice hotel on the Marine Parade.

 - The Times


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