(Photo : Gold Circle)
VODACOM DURBAN JULY
Greyville, South Africa
The epic moments in adversarial competition have oftentimes been labelled with descriptions like “gladiatorial”, “titanic” or “battles of the giants”. But frankly, when you consider what we have in store on Saturday at the Vodacom Durban July, you find yourself questioning the adequacy of these phrases. The man the world has come to regard as one of its best, if not the best, trainer, Mike de Kock, has no fewer than seven (or 35%) of the field of 20 engaged, while the other Mike, Bass, goes to war with four. Between them, they command more than half the entries for the greatest horseracing event on the African continent, one which rivals any other outside of the Football World Cup, for the title of the continent’s most famous sporting show, period.
Yet despite the hands of these two men, (and the battle is likely to be resolved between them,) in their charges themselves, there is a distinctly open look to them. There was a time earlier in the year when Mike de Kock told us that he didn’t think this was a vintage crop of three year old colts, but hindsight tells us he might’ve been premature in his judgement. You see, he may even be human after all.
Considering the likes of Pierre Jourdan, Noordhoek Flyer, Bravura, Havasha and Galileo’s Galaxy have been sidelined for one reason or another, we still have the ilk of Irish Flame, Ancestral Fore, Bold Silvano, Happy Valley etc engaged, so we’re probably looking at as deep a generation of three year old colts as we’ve known in several decades.
That said, their task is not an easy one, as the burden of weight has crept up among three year olds in recent years, to the degree that what they’re carrying these days, is barely recognisable from the postage stamp Bush Telegraph was asked to manage when he took the July two decades ago, on his way to his 9th consecutive victory.
Of course, these things are all relative, and it may well be that the three year olds have the advantage these days, of racing against the depleted ranks of our older horses. South Africa’s outstanding success, pioneered largely by Mr de Kock, in international climes, has brought about the regular plunder of our older horse ranks, such is the money on offer for these horses or the lure of the prizes which ring in hard currency.
The outcome though, is not altogether forlorn. We still have engaged in this race a three-time Horse Of The Year in Pocket Power, his own sister (our personal choice) River Jetez, heroine of this year’s J&B Met and arguably one of the best treated at the weights for the July, as well as several of the class of Fort Vogue, who come in with a “squeak”.
As for choice, you could probably throw a blanket over six or seven horses with decent chances, and be lucky for having picked the right one. There are students of form who will have devoted several months to this task, yet some of them will still be disappointed at the result. This really is a year for people operating beyond the parameters of the “expert”. As long as you remember there is a limit to those with realistic expectations, closing your eyes and putting your finger on any one of those that fall within this group, could yield a bonanza.