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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent


See It Again returns to put the record straight

The 128th running of the Durban July is a wide-open affair.


Champion trainer Justin Snaith describes the 2024 Hollywoodbets Durban July as “a complete mixed box of chocolates” and if you’ve ever faced the dilemma of choosing from a wide range of delectable confectionery you’ll know what he means.

It’s hard to pick just one.

Of course, the July is never a simple race to decipher, with the best horses from around the country coming together for an ultimate test, with R5-million and Grade 1 status on the line – and the most prized place in local racing’s history books. But this 128th renewal looks more inscrutable than many.

Snaith adds: “It’s wide open and it’ll all come down to luck in the running.”

Fate and fortune are always part of racing – and the July passage is notoriously rough – but when a five-time winner of Africa’s greatest race, a self-confident bloke who saddles three of the starters, talks about “luck” being the most critical factor we know the task of finding the winner will be tough.

See It Again

If life and racing were always fair, and redemption assured, the topweight See It Again would win.

Trained and ridden by two legends of the South African turf, Michael “Muis” Roberts and Piere “Striker” Strydom respectively, See It Again is the classiest horse in the field – the highest rated and the best performed – and was an unlucky runner-up in 2023.

That day, he was excruciatingly headed on the line by the year-older, better-weighted Winchester Mansion.

Multiple champion and colossus of the saddle Strydom put off his retirement from racing for a whole year in order to return to Greyville racecourse in early July to try to put the record straight.

For Roberts, South Africa’s greatest jockey and now a leading trainer in KwaZulu-Natal, it would be the crowning glory of an amazing life. He would become only the third person in the past century to both ride and train a July winner.

A See It Again victory would also be just reward for his owner Nick Jonsson, who contributes a huge amount to the racing game through his ownership of scores of horses and hefty sponsoring of races and jockeys.

You’d be stone-hearted not to hope this team pulls it off.

Green With Envy and Flag Man

However, though racing is full of emotion, when whips are cracking and the finishing post is in sight, all sentimentality gets galloped underfoot.

Another five-time July-winning trainer, Mike de Kock, warned during a televised panel discussion on July prospects this week that the top three-year-old horses appeared to have an edge over older rivals. One of those older horses is See It Again, now four.

In particular, De Kock reckons ruling favourite Green With Envy and shooting star Flag Man are the horses to be with when the starting gates crash open at 4pm on Saturday.

In keeping with Snaith’s chocolate assemblage, there are other three-year-olds that look tasty, such as dual Grade 1 winner Purple Pitcher and the much-improved grey Barbaresco.

Among the older brigade are defending champion Winchester Mansion, Cape Town Met winner Double Superlative, well-handicapped Future Swing, local hero Royal Victory and lightly weighted stayer Future Pearl.

A choccie quandary, indeed.

A wise old racing man used to say, “When in doubt, go with the topweight!”

In this case, that is See It Again. And, in truth, he has more than sentiment in his favour – most notably his athleticism, determination and bravery.

His gate No 10 is Striker’s preferred July draw, allowing him the best chance to find a handy travelling position for the 2200m journey. Right alongside him in No 11 is Oriental Charm, who likes to push the pace. Also close by, in gate 8, is Purple Pitcher, another possible frontrunner.

If See It Again can glide in the slipstream of these two, he could find himself very handily placed when the charge for the line comes.

Last year, some pundits reckoned Strydom pushed a fraction too early on the big chestnut, taking a gap when it presented itself. If he can be in the front line of the affray this time, precisely timing his charge, the story could have a different ending.

See It Again has had just one preparatory race, which some feel is a bit light, but Roberts has seen and done it all, around the world, and we mere mortals will trust his judgment.

SELECTION:

10 See It Again, 17 Flag Man, 2 Barbaresco, 1 Royal Victory

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