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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

Colour and local heroes as Durban July gallops off

Sunny weather comes to the party at Africa’s greatest horse racing event.

The weather was perfect and punters got off to a excited start of mixed fortunes at the 2024 Hollywoodbets Durban July meeting at Greyville on Saturday – South Africa’s greatest horse racing event.

Hot-pot favourite Lock And Key easily won the first race on the card, cheered on by a large and swelling crowd of racegoers. Race 2 saw the bookmakers get a measure of revenge as 12-1 locally trained shot Diani took the honours.

The third race went to 6-1 chance Cape Eagle, another KZN-based horse, before a “bomb dropped” in the fourth, the Gold Vase, with 16-1 outsider Madison Valley exploding a multitude of bets when edging out the equally unfancied Shoot The Rapids – first and second coming from the local team of trainer Frank Robinson and owner Syd Moodley.

ALSO READ: Royal July victory anticipated, Double Grand Slam looks best banker on Greyville card

Earlier, under sunshine and blue skies, record-breaking champion jockey Richard Fourie steered home two-year-old filly Lock And Key, ahead of 11 older rivals. Trainer Glen Kotzen described the juvenile as “awesome”, with a bright future.

Popular jockey S’Manga Khumalo yelled his trademark “whoop whoop” after winning aboard Diani, trained by Dennis Bosch.

Diani’s owner Kelly Hadden wowed the throng around the winner’s circle in a long, glittering, silver-white gown and dedicated the win to “all the women out there”.

And there were dozens of similarly stunningly dressed women in a crowd expected to grow to 50 000 by the time the headliner, the R5-million, Grade 1 Durban July, rolled around at 4pm.

The dress theme for the day – which traditionally hosts South Africa’s premier fashion designers – was Ride The Wave.

ALSO READ: Lerena feels confident plan will come together with Barbaresco at Durban July

One of the early television interviews featured broadcaster Carol Tshabalala, “South Africa’s First Lady of Sport”, who was resplendent in purple and blue with a spiral fancier bobbing on her head.

Carol said she was on a winning betting streak on the day and was determined to keep it that way through all 12 races on the card.

The KZN MEC for tourism Musa Zondi said in his interview that the Durban July was a good thing as it “makes people happy – for a change!”

Record tote pools were expected, while two races – the July and the Grade 1 Ridgemont Garden Province Stakes – were designated World Pool events, with millions of punters around the world betting into the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s co-mingled global pools.

The local TAB Pick 6 pool was set to reach a record-breaking R20-million, while R12-million was lined up for the Quartet pool for the July itself.

ALSO READ: Rachel Venniker making Durban July history in ‘just another race’

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