As big as the events at Royal Ascot might be, the announcement of the field for the Vodacom Durban July at noon today, overshadowed (for South African’s at least) anything that may have been taking place under the stewardship of Her Majesty The Queen across the water.
With last year’s winner, Eyeofthetiger, in inexplicably poor form, his withdrawal facilitated the hopes of a few marginal entrants, yet the quality of this field, with few exceptions, represents the best middle distance form in the nation, and explains why it retains its credo “The Greatest Horserace in Africa”. Among the older horses, J&B Met winner Pocket Power heads the class, though he and his peers will have their hands full with the Three Year Olds. With the notable exceptions of Summerhill-bred Emperor Napoleon (one-time favourite who was withdrawn with a “breathing” issue) and Divine Jury, all the principal suspects are there: Kildonan, Pick Six, Jay Peg, Buy & Sell, Dynamite Mike, Ravishing, Biarritz, and while there’s a belief (arguably justified) that they just cant win it with the weights they’ve been allocated, this crop was proclaimed “vintage” while they were still in their infancy, and they’re a long way from done.
Good news from a Summerhill perspective (following the disappointment of “The Emperor’s” scratching) is that we have three left (or 16%) of the final 20, and while we didn’t fare that well in the draws (Pick Six 13, Veiled Essence 18 and Dynamite Mike 5), people are beginning to realize where they come from – you cant count us out till the fat girl has sung!
One astute punter’s observation of the outcome of last week’s big trial (The Gold Challenge over 1600 metres) was that the first 5 or 6 home all looked like genuine milers, and could be gasping for breath come the last furlong or two of the eleven of the Vodacom.
In that event, the likes of Pick Six (a start-to-finish leader over the punishing 2000m of the Gomma Gomma ), Derby winner Ravishing & Oaks heroine, Veiled Essence could well be looking for a scrap come the business end of the 2200 metres . One thing’s common to most July’s, and that’s a searching early pace, so the heat should be on.