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CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

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

PHOTOS: LEON SADIKI

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

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