It’s a race everybody wants to win, even if it only happens once in your career. Not only do you get the coverage nationally, but internationally as well.
I have ridden overseas many times and they even talk about the Vodacom Durban July as our “big one”.
When you just think about taking part your expectations rise. We only have 16 runners in today’s race which makes it a bit fairer as 20 runners around a tight track never gave all the horses a fair chance of winning so your horse not only needed ability, but luck as well.
You will still need some luck in running as you can even get boxed in, even in a four-horse field. What you’re looking for when you get on your horse is to see it in tip-top shape and hope you are at least able to get a bit of the plan you made work out for you. Many guys have the same plan so you might not be able to execute it that easily.
For us as jockeys it’s quite exciting going out and being in the middle of this big crowd. It’s even more exciting when you canter down to the post and the crowd cheers every horse on his way to the start.
I generally find in the Durban July they go quite fast early on for position and then they seem to slow down, especially if there is no natural front runner. I have virtually won two of my three Julys – on London News and Pomodoro – when they eased back, and I took the opportunity to go forward. Sometimes they go so fast in the beginning it’s ridiculous but this year I can’t see much of a pace as there is no natural pacemaker.
Punters need to decide whether to go with young and improving three-year-olds or your established older horses. I initially thought the three-year-olds were definitely superior but after studying form it looks a lot closer. This is probably the most competitive July I’ve seen because in the past there have been numerous horses you could draw a line through. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these horses could win.
I’m riding Halve The Deficit. He has not raced over this distance so I’m not sure if he will stay, but the way he runs, Greyville should be an advantage. He has quite a bit of natural speed and quite good acceleration. I would have thought at best he could run a place but I hope he could surprise me and actually win it.
He has been priced up at 16-1 which basically tells you what his chances are, because when I ride a horse the bookmakers generally price me up shorter than I should be. We have been beaten by Espumanti by 2.25 lengths but we are 2.5kg better off which should bring us closer. But if you like Espumanti then horses like Punta Arenas and Cherry On The Top come in to the race as well.
Another horses with a chance, but will need to improve, is Futura, as well as three-year-old filly In The Fast Lane. She should also have a decent chance as she races quite handy, has a good draw, and on top of that has very good acceleration which you need in this short Greyville straight.
But my four main selections who I feel will be involved in the finish are the young and improving three-year-old colts. My first choice is Rake’s Chestnut as he is a horse who has only had four runs and could improve more than any other horse in the field. He is well drawn at No 5, which should allow the jockey to settle him just off the pace.
My second choice is Legislate. Unfortunately he has a bit of a bad draw but last time he was racing six wide at some stage coming into the straight at Greyville – it was Louis The King who pushed him wide – but was able to run around the field and still win. With better luck in running he could be the horse they all have to beat.
My third choice is Louis the King. He was hampered at the start last time and had a lot to make up. What worries me is that he tends to come from the back of the field and the short straight might catch him out.
My fourth pick is Captain America. He is the best handicapped three-year-old but he’s got some issues to overcome in that he can fight with the rider and unfortunately from a bad draw it won’t make life easy for Sean Cormack. He might find himself a bit too handy, and if he does settle, could end up a bit too far behind.
On the day I have a few other rides. I’m riding Tip Toe in Race 1 but she has been running closer to the back than the front in her couple of starts and also has a bad draw to overcome. I’m just hoping for improvement.
In Race 3 I’m on Gold Onyx. He seems held on form so I would be quite happy with a place. The two horses we have to beat are Shogunnar and Disco Al.
In Race 5 I ride Love To Sail. She’s only had one run which she won but didn’t beat anything special. The fact she won is encouraging but she has yet to go around the turn.
The horse we all have to beat is Alboran Sea, especially as she is drawn No 1. She has only had two starts for two wins, including a feature race. She’s possibly a banker on the day.
The only danger to her would be Carry On Alice but unfortunately she has quite a bad draw to overcome.
In Race 6 I ride Harry’s Son. He was well beaten by Guiness at Scottsville but he suffered interference in running. With a decent draw he could give Guiness a go. The other main contender could be Afrikaburn who has won both of his starts and is well drawn.
In Race 9 I ride Goldie Coast. A place would be more than welcome as Beach Beauty seems to be the banker of the day.
There is also racing at Turffontein today and I just thought we could look at some of the races. In Race 3, the horse who won last time and looks useful is Fire Horse. He is drawn quite well and the fact money has come for him makes me think he could be a Place Accumulator banker.
In Race 4 I see two horses fighting it – Magnus Opus and Ultimate Tiger. The danger is Unbroken, who has a good draw
In Race 6 my first choice is Indian Giant. He has won his last two starts and could make it three in a row. Two horses who could do well are Klondike Creek who I rode last time. He was drawn badly and nothing went my way. There are certain horses who need to have everything go their way in order to run well, and he is one of them. From a good draw he could just get that luck in running and looks sure to fight it out.
My other roughie is Klondike River. Unfortunately he is drawn quite badly. The distance may have been too far for him last time but the fact the pace was quick and he only got collared late, indicates there was a lot more merit to that run than the form suggests.