t doesn’t take place in July, the prize money is modest and there’s very little fashion on display, but the Bray July is a different horse racing event with a special type of following.
Unlike the exciting and glamorous Durban July, the Bray July is more of a low-profile event, but is special in its own way. This horse racing event is fast gaining popularity as the country’s biggest bush horse race.
Event organiser Jan du Preez finds it hard to explain the word ‘July’ in the name Bray July.
“It’s just a name, but we have no intention to imitate the Durban July. This is a totally different set-up and atmosphere,” he said.
The race is held on a flat and dusty landscape of savanna dotted with acacia trees in the one-horse town of Bray, a farming dorp along the Molopo River that borders Botswana.
Its tagline is The Kalahari Experience.
Attendees do not bother to dress up. It is here where farmers and farm workers take a break from their jobs and get together to attend this spirited annual event. The event has also become a camping retreat of sorts.
Now in its 19th year, the annual race was held yesterday and organisers are pleased with its growth. Horses from as far as the Northern Cape, Free State and Botswana take part in the race.
With just one filling station, a few shops that mostly sell supplies for farmers and a few houses making up the whole of Bray, the town has very
... we have no intention to imitate the Durban July
little to offer. It bursts into life with the horse race and the few guesthouses in the area are booked months in advance in anticipation of the event.
The race is a dusty affair with horses trailing dust as they gallop on the red Kalahari sand, their thundering hooves racing towards the finish line, to loud cheers from the assembled crowd.
Du Preez said 76 horses were registered for the race this year. This is a huge growth from the 28 horses when the race was started 19 years ago by former Springbok lock Frik du Preez.
“Initially we had 93 horses and were forced to cut the number because we don’t have enough stables to accommodate all of them,” he said.
There is a total of 10 races and the winner of the main race takes home R20 000. There is also a race where only locals, most of whom are farm workers, take part.
Bray July is supported by professional tote betting body, Phumelela, and it also has special permission from the North West Gambling Board to allow bets. The provincial government has also started promoting the event.
“Our vision is to grow the Bray July brand to be the largest horse racing event in a small dorpie in South Africa and Africa by 2020,” said North West tourism MEC Desbo Mohono.
JAN DU PREEZ
RAW HORSE RACING Riders gallop down a stretch of sand that serves as a race track as they urge their mounts to the finish line in the annual Bray July, which is also known as The Kalahari Experience RACING FAN A man enjoys a beer at the Bray July as he watches the small town’s annual horse racing event EAGER CROWD Although there is no grandstand, these spectators still get up close to catch all the racing action
UP ON THE ROOF Denim is the Bray July’s fashion theme as this female trio chooses a roof as the perfect vantage point