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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

‘Wooo! We did it!’ exclaims Matsunyane as Winchester Mansion wins Durban July

Favourite See It Again is pipped on the line in a thrilling finish.

Winchester Mansion won the 2023 Hollywoodbets Durban July at Greyville on Saturday – ridden by Kabelo Matsunyane, trained by Brett Crawford, and owned by the Drakenstein Stud of Gaynor Rupert.

The 8-1 chance edged out 4-1 favourite See It Again in the final strides to take first prize in the R5-million Grade 1 contest over 2200m.

A race review immediately after the finish came to nothing.

In third place, 3.50 lengths adrift of the dueling front two, was three-year-old filly Bless My Stars, a 35-1 outsider.

Galloping gallantly into fourth was eight-year-old Do It Again (22-1), a two-time July champion who has never finished out of the places in his record-breaking six runs in Africa’s greatest race.

It was a first victory for all the connections.

Kabelo Matsunyane
Kabelo Matsunyane after his big win during the Durban July on Saturday. Picture: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Jockey Kabelo Matsunyane

Matsunyane, recently graduated from the SA Jockey Academy and the second black jockey after S’Manga Khumalo to win the July, exclaimed, “Wooo! We did it!”. He was in tears in the victory gallop-past.

Also highly emotional was Crawford, who said a long-term plan had come together. Rupert said the result capped a “season from heaven” for her breeding and racing operation.

Critical to the result was three-year-old See It Again carrying 3.5kg more than the year-older Winchester Mansion. Another key factor in the outcome was the gelding of Winchester Mansion in mid-May, which saw the son of Trippi improve markedly and go from an unlikely starter to second favouritism.

Though Crawford is based in Cape Town, Winchester Mansion is trained on the Highveld by the trainer’s son James. He was transported down the N3 to Durban for his two July preparatory runs – and many an expert said three “floats” to Durban was a no-no.

Dave The King

As expected, Mike de Kock-trained Dave The King took a tug early on and went off to set a brisk pace with his big stride. He was tracked by well-fancied Without Question, Time Flies, Winchester Mansion, Billy Bowlegs, Son Of Raj and Safe Passage.

See It Again was settled halfway down the field.

In the straight, Dave The King soon ran out of puff and Winchester Mansion struck out for glory. However, See It Again – trained by South African turf legends Michael “Muis” Roberts and ridden by Piere “Striker” Strydom – steaked through the field to challenge. A fighting finish for the ages ensued, with See It Again nosing ahead but hanging in towards his adversary.

Young Motsunyane was switching his crop around to best ward off the threat and eventually the lighter-weighted runner inched ahead and got the decision by 0.25 lengths.

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