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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

Durban July race conditions rejigged

The result in 2023 might have been different under new rules.

The conditions for Africa’s biggest horse race, the R5-million Hollywoodbets Durban July, have been changed significantly ahead of the 2024 running.

The result of last year’s edition, in which well-weighted four-year-old Winchester Mansion held off the challenge of three-year-old favourite See It Again, seems to have jogged operator Gold Circle to reconfigure the historic race.

That outcome underlined what many a pundit has said in recent years: that it’s not the best horse that wins the July but the best-weighted one.


So, the most important change is the handicapping structure being rejigged.

Also, automatic qualifying races have been dropped completely.

The old rule of a 53kg minimum weight for male horses is replaced by a 53kg minimum for three-year-old males and a 54kg minimum for four-year-olds and above.

Similarly, the 52kg minimum for all females is changed to 52kg for three-year-olds and 53kg for four and older.

Had this condition been in place last year, the 0.25-length runner up See It Again would have had to give only 2.5kg to winner Winchester Mansion – instead of 3.5kg. On paper, there would have been a different result, according to Turf Talk’s calculations.

In recent years, a number of progressive four-year-olds have made it into the Durban July field with relatively light weights, with victors Winchester Mansion, Belgarion, The Conglomerate and Power King being prime examples.

The authoritative Turf Talk approves of the change.

Entry into July

Victory in various major races around the country earlier in the season was previously a golden ticket into the July. These included the L’Ormarins King’s Plate, the WSB Cape Town Met, the Splashout Cape Derby, the SA Classic, the Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, the SA Derby, the Premier’s Champions Challenge, the Daily News 2000, the Woolavington 2000 and the Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge.

“Preferential consideration” for inclusion in the July was given to winners of the Betway Summer Cup, the WSB 1900 and the Cup Trial.

These provisions have been swept away and composition of the final line-up of 20 (18 runners and two reserves) will be solely at the discretion of Gold Circle’s selection panel.

Publication of a series of July logs – indicating the panel’s thinking in the lead-up to the big race – remains part of the conditions.

First entries for the 2024 renewal close on Monday 22 April and the list will be unveiled on Wednesday 24 April. Final declarations will be on Monday 24 June and the final field and draws announced the next day.

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