The Vodacom Durban July is just one week away and once again seeing the final field, the draw, the gallops and the betting all add to the excitement. People are having bets already and taking their favourite numbers and names.
I have just been away to Bela-Bela and I’m starting to imagine things myself as to whether that is a sign the filly can win.
I’m riding The Conglomerate. Naturally I would have hoped for a better draw but I won on Pomodoro from No 20 draw and funnily enough The Conglomerate was drawn No 18 of the 18 runners last year. The form indicates that just about every runner has a winning chance and that is taking both the older and younger horses into account. This has to be one the most open Julys in years. However, we will go on more about that next week.
Naturally as a jockey we’re already trying to work out our tactics and how the race will run.
We will all need some luck but I will need a bit more than normal. It didn’t help last year that the false rail was pushed out so wide it forced everybody to the outside which resulted in all the gaps being closed up. That meant in order to get a run you had to switch in. But that takes time and you end up getting through when the race is over.
Also I hope they manage to dry up the section of the track from the 500m to 400m. You are running on dry grass and the next thing you hit this wet patch. It causes the front horses to slow down and you tend to run up the heels of the horse in front. Then the horse behind you starts jumping up your heels. It’s very unpleasant and unsafe.
One of the reasons I’m hoping Phumelela build a Polytrack in Joburg before I retire is that it has to be the nicest surface for a horse to run on and a jockey to ride on. Polytrack runs faster than normal so you rarely get a false-run race and there is no unevenness which makes it safer for horse and rider.
Racing is on the Inside track at Turffontein today and Race 1 a is Maiden Juvenile Plate in which a lot of horses could make improvement. On this track you must favour the lowest draws and for that reason I make my first selection Shortstop. To chase him home I’ve gone with Artificio, Persian Approval and Ali Bon Dubai.
Race 2 is a very competitive Maiden Juvenile Plate for fillies with many having chances but nothing standing out. So therefore you need to include as many as possible in the BiPot. My first choice is Red Pomegranate who could make quite a bit of improvement. You also need to consider Tambalang and Countryside.
I ride Might As Well who finished just ahead of Countryside but Might As Well has had many runs while Countryside has run just twice and could improve more.
Race 3 is another Maiden Plate for fillies and mares but this time Lady Negra stands out. She’s taking on quite a weak field and as she has only had two starts, she could improve even further. With a good draw she could be a Place Accumulator banker.
Race 4 is yet another Maiden Plate and the form is not very strong but two horses stand out. They are King Of Thrones and Tiki Torch. For the PA those two should get you through safely but you could take a chance and banker one of them. For the Pick 6 both need to go in.
Race 5 is a Pinnacle Stakes and the best weighted runners are favoured. My best bet on today’s card is Zafira. She has the strongest form by far, is drawn No 1 and as she’s only a three-year-old has more scope for improvement than any of the other runners.
Race 6 is another Pinnacle Stakes and again the horses with the highest merit ratings should fight it out. My selections are Silver Scooter and Bulleting Home who should be good enough for the PA.
For the Pick 6 include Afrikaburn and Will Pays.
Race 7 could possibly be another banker, especially in the PA, in Yankee Captain. He’s lightly raced, looks to be an improver and is drawn at pole position. He tops the bookmakers’ boards at 16-10 and even at that price, looks to be excellent value. His danger could be my ride, Ronnie Rocket, but we have to come from the worst draw.
If Yankee Captain is not your banker then Ronnie Rocket could be good enough for the Pick 6. If those two are not enough you could consider Last Battle and Mutakayyef.
Race 8 is a handicap and looks very competitive. The horses with the best form are Ahlaam and Red Star. After that it becomes wide open. So for the PA include those two and possibly one of your own fancies.
For the Pick 6 you could consider the field. I ride Angelic Appeal who ran second behind a top filly in Trophy Wife last time out. But don’t be fooled by that run. On that day the pace was very slow and the fact Trophy Wife lost a couple of lengths over a distance too short for her and still won, would probably give punters false hope. In fact, Sisters Of Mercy has beaten Angelic Appeal in the past.
So if Angelic Appeal is favourite and is held by other runners it shows how open this race is.
Race 9 is probably the toughest on the card and in the Pick 6 you could consider taking the field. For the PA I’ve cut it down to Dangerous Diva, Matsuri, Snowdonia and Mythical Magic.
I’m riding Indzaba whose form is not too good of late and she’s had some soundness issues. Hopefully after two month’s rest the issues have been sorted out and she can find a place. One could also consider Eye The Countess and River Run for the Pick 6.