View across the Royal Durban Golf Course towards the Greyville Grandstand
(Photo : The Royal Durban Golf Club)
Woolavington 2000 & Daily News 2000
Greyville, 4 June 2011
The first Saturday in June is famously remembered for the running of the Investec (English) Derby (Gr.1), and its renewal tends to overwhelm all other news events around it. Locally, a breed-shaping duo of races takes its own place in our calendar, in the shape of the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1) and the Woolavington 2000 (Gr.1), as-often-as-not pointers to the outcome of the three-year-old colts and fillies championships.
These take place this weekend at the home of the Vodacom Durban July, the Greyville circuit which lies in one of the most picturesque settings any racecourse occupies anywhere in the world. Those that know the city of Durban, will know the city bowl and the principal residential area, the Berea. The 3000m circuit (one of the biggest racecourses in the world), which embraces the Royal Durban Golf Club and lies between the Berea (a range of hills overlooking the city and the Indian ocean) and the central business district, which means it provides a vista on big race days for many of the residents of the city from their favourable perches on the Berea, the track also serves as a “through road” (via subways) for most of the city’s business traffic on its way home on an evening.
Back to the races. The press seem to think that the Woolavington is a one-horse race, dominated by the irrepressible Igugu, whom as most of our readers know was a R1 million graduate of the 2009 Summerhill Ready To Run draft. She is the first filly in South African history to win the Triple Tiara, and she is the reigning favourite for the Vodacom Durban July. The only question mark over Igugu, lies in the fact that she’s had a very long season, kicking off in August of last year, in her preparation for her meeting with Hollywoodboulevard in the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup, and she’s been on the go ever since. If she’s able to maintain her form right through to the July, she’s going to be a formidable opponent for anyone wishing to cross swords with her.
The Daily News 2000 is an altogether different matter, and here, because all the runners in Classics start at level weights, the merit ratings of the horses engaged are usually a good guide. Most of the top three-year-old colts are engaged, and from a Summerhill perspective, we have Black Wing running off a merit rating of 100, earned principally for the fact that he’s unbeaten in his last four starts. He’s a progressive sort, but whether he’s up to beating the likes of Run For It, Top Seller, English Garden etc, only Saturday will tell us. Paul Gadsby, one-time top jockey, raconteur and newly-turned trainer, has fluked this one in his first year at his new profession. “Fluked” is probably not an appropriate word here, as Gadsby chose him and personally rode the horse on the Summerhill Gallops, from the ranks of those that were left on the farm, for a paltry R50,000. This will be some kind of a fairytale for owner Clive Murphy, if Black Wing pulls it off, though he’s not yet faced this kind of opposition. That said, his last run did tell us something though, as he bumped a very promising older sort in Mike de Kock’s Argentinean import, Esteco, on his last outing, and this one has since franked the form impressively on his next racecourse visit.
Black Wing’s family goes back just one generation to one of Summerhill’s foundation mares, Final Wonder, the last (and the only) foal by the great champion stallion, Persian Wonder. His dam is a sister to the South African Classic (Gr.1) ace, Last Watch, and she won herself up to 2400m, so stamina should not be a limiting factor.
But the fairytale? We’ll know by 17:23 hours Saturday (Channel 232, or visit www.summerhill.co.za, click blog.)