(Photo : Gold Circle)
The final Vodacom July field has been announced, and between now and the 31st July, there’ll be any amount of conjecture about the winner. Mike de Kock has a record seven runners in the field, and the other Mike, Bass, has four. Between them, they make up more than half the field, and that’s probably without precedent. Their runners also dominate the betting boards, but that’s not what today’s column is about. We’ll talk about the likely outcome closer to the race, and probably after the final gallops on Thursday.
Meanwhile though, we’ve got another story which reminds us why we like racing. It involves the eight year old, Grafton Street, who’s overcome just about every challenge in life to earn his place on July Day, and while it’s not in the “big one”, he is in the consolation, having missed the cut by the slimmest of margins. Firstly, we should remember he’s the property of a dyed-in-the-wool horse “nut”, Margaret Filmer, a lady who lives for her horses, and who’s been associated through her breeding operations with a number of top-class animals.
Grafton Street kicked off life as an inmate of the highly successful Glen Kotzen yard, and performed manfully in his first career, stringing together five victories despite the odd issues that threatened to curtail his walk to the top. There came a time, at the end of his five year old career, when both owner and trainer decided to call it a day, and so this gelded son of Jallad was given away to a riding school. He spent a year and a half there, when Margaret gave the enigmatic but affable horseman, Mike Stewart, a call, asking him to take the horse into his wife Ingrid’s trails yard, where he might live out his days in the idyllic surroundings of Noordhoek beach, just about the southernmost livery yard and training facility in Africa.
Always a “victim” for such a ploy, Mike readily agreed, but he tells us that when he saw Grafton Street alight from the float, he looked to be in pretty good shape, and he suggested to Margaret that they give him a three or four month trial back in training.
The rest, as they say, is history. He quickly strung together three victories, and earned himself a place in the card for Africa’s greatest raceday. Whatever happens on the Saturday after next, doesn’t really matter. It’s enough that this old warrior earned himself a place as close to the top table as you could wish for, but if you’re a Mike Stewart believer, (and you’d have good cause, given his track record), you’d have to think, come what may, he’ll be giving them hell at the business end.