Please click above to load a little Durban July history.
The presentation can be paused at any point using the navigation controls, bottom left.
It can be viewed full-screen by clicking the view button, bottom right.
(Photos : Summerhill Stud Archive)
OF ERNIE DUFFIELD AND THE 1946 DURBAN JULY
My earliest days in racing were ignited by the gravelly voice of the enigmatic Ernie Duffield. A jockey by trade, he was strongly opinionated as he was a great commentator, and Duff was never shy to put his name on the line. We speak of course, of the days before television, when a listener’s only connection to a horserace if he wasn’t on the course proper, was the race call of Ernie Duffield. This was a man who could stand his own with the best in the world, especially if he had a few quid on the outcome.
He was also a publisher in his time, founding the famous Duff’s Turf Guide, which I recall being an avid reader from the time I commenced “potty training”.
Robin Bruss is the unofficial custodian of South African racing history, and he dug out two issues of the 1946 July Duff’s Turf Guide, the one a preview of the July field, and the other a commentary on the aftermath. For those who choose to revisit history, we’ve appended some exercepts from both (click the play button above), and in the process we’ve attempted to capture the era with one or two of the adverts which appeared in the guide. Remember, it was the year after the Second World War, and there were 100 000 people on the course.
When you’ve read Duff’s exercepts, it’s probably worth knowing this as well. My grandfather Pat was a reputedly larger than life character. I’m proud to say he shared my own obsession with horses, and he had a true sportsman’s outlook on the game. He knew how to win, and importantly, he knew how to lose.
In his preview of the July, Duff describes Pat Goss as an optimist, which was something of an understatement. Just recently, we hosted a notable horseman by the name of Alistair Stubbs for lunch at Summerhill, and he related to us that he was a junior farm manager in East Griqualand in 1946. He happened to be at Midgley Halt (the local railway station), when grandfather Pat rode up in his horsebox and his horse, St Pauls alighted. At less than 15 hands, St Pauls was about to be loaded for Durban, and his date with July destiny. In an almost throw-away comment, Pat turned to Alistair and said, “You’re looking at the July winner”.
Backing his judgement Pat booked the Kew Hotel, the smartest hostelry on the Berea, for the victory party some three months before the event. Every Durbanite who shared his reverence for the July, whether he knew them or not, would be invited in the event of victory. The party is said to have raged for two days, and the following weekend, the old Kew burnt down. Nothing to do with the victory party, of course!
For the record, St Pauls was, and remains, the smallest July winner in history. His pre July wins included several in Pony and Galloway Handicaps. And so, we can dream!.
Posted by Mick Goss