The venerable winter racing season in KwaZulu-Natal – marketed as “Champions Season” – was launched this week, with operator Gold Circle trumpeting “a feast of 53 feature events … that attracts the best horses from the leading stables around the country.”
The season is indeed a feast for racing fans, even though most are unlikely to be permitted onto Greyville – now dubbed “the Theatre of Champions” – and Scottsville courses thanks to the pandemic lockdown.
Here’s Gold Circle’s press release on the highlight of the South African racing year:
With R16 million in feature race stakes on offer for owners during the three-month festival of high-class thoroughbred racing from May to July, South Africa’s Champions Season in KwaZulu-Natal will launch at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse in Durban on 2 May 2021.
Champions Season will kick off with the traditional running of the Independent On Saturday race meeting featuring the IOS Drill Hall Stakes, the World Sports Betting Guineas and the World Sports Betting Fillies Guineas at the Theatre of Champions, where we will see a number of the official Vodacom Durban July hopefuls stake their claim for a chance to line up in the final field on 3 July.
A feast of 53 feature events will follow that attracts the best horses from the leading stables around the country, promising racegoers, general racing fans and the average public plenty of excitement and entertainment throughout the three-month programme.
Champions Season represents one of the biggest and most comprehensive festivals of racing in the world, attracting international interest and includes a feature race platform for all categories of racing from the exciting juveniles to the mature stars over distances from 1000m to 3200m.
Africa’s greatest horseracing event, the world famous R2-million, Vodacom Durban July, stands out as the iconic centerpiece of the festival that includes 13 Grade 1 races and a total of 34 graded races to be contested.
For many trainers, the R300,000 Grade 2 World Sports Betting 1900, scheduled to run on 16 May, will be the preferred pipe-opener for their Vodacom Durban July chargers. Over the years a number of runners that have won the tough 1900m race have gone on to win the premier event, including reigning VDJ champion Belgarion.
The first Gr1 races of the season will see the country’s top three-year-olds take centre stage at Hollywoodbets Greyville on 29 May in the R750,000 Daily News 2000 and the R500,000 Woolavington 2000.
Not only will the victors be guaranteed a place in the Vodacom Durban July, they will also take a big step towards being crowned EQUUS Champions of their generation, such is the stature of these races.
The unique Golden Horse Sprint meeting at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg on 5 June features four Grade 1 sprints over 1200m. The best sprinters in South Africa gather at the venue for the R500,000 Golden Horse Sprint, the R500,000 South African Fillies Sprint and the first two Grade 1 events for juveniles, the R400,000 Gold Medallion and the R400,000 Allan Robertson Championship for fillies.
The battle for a place in the final 18-horse field for the Vodacom Durban July will heat up on 12 June with the running of the R500,000 Hollywoodbets Grade 1 Gold Challenge and the Grade 3 Cup Trial with the meeting also featuring the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes.
With the feature programme continuing at pace over the following weeks the Grade 3 Track and Ball Gaming “Derby” and Grade 2 Track & Ball “Oaks” at Hollywoodbets Scottsville, will provide a stern test for the stayers on 19 June.
We return to Hollywoodbets Greyville where the Grade 2 Post Merchants will add to the quality on show for the KZN Breeders Race Day on 27 June with their eight-race programme for horses qualifying under the terms of the KZN Breeders Series headed by the R500,000 KZN Breeders Mile.
Vodacom Durban July day returns to its traditional date on the first Saturday in July, for a 10- feature race feast headed by the R2-million, iconic Grade 1 “July”
Although we are unlikely to see the crowds on course celebrating this race day due to the ongoing regulations around the Covid-19 pandemic, supporters will be able to tune in to the broadcast coverage on Tellytrack, DStv or via live streaming to witness the best racehorses in the country gracing the hallowed turf of Hollywoodbets Greyville on 3 July.
The race day will also feature the R750,000, Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes and the two Grade 2 Juvenile clashes over 1400m, the Durban Golden Horseshoe and the Golden Slipper.
The grand finale of Champions Season takes place on Saturday, 31 July, featuring the illustrious R600,000 Gold Cup over 3200m, the R600,000 Champions Cup over 1800m, the R500,000 Grade 1 The Mercury Sprint, the Grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes and the Grade 1 Thekwini Stakes, both worth R400,000.
Fittingly, this high-class race day will bring the curtain down on the South African racing calendar and will almost certainly play a vital role in determining the champions of the 2020/2021 season.