Sean Tri­vass spends an en­joy­able day rac­ing in Dur­ban

Sean Tri­vass en­joys his day at the South African races

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Most days I get to write about Bri­tish horse rac­ing and I can’t ex­actly com­plain, but ev­ery now and again I am let off the leash just a lit­tle and get to put to­gether what they call a “colour piece” which is all about the day and not just the win­ners and losers.

I have said sim­i­lar be­fore, but if you ever fancy some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent when trav­el­ling to the Dubai World Cup, Breed­ers’ Cup, Arc, and any more of the usual sus­pects then why not at least con­sider the Dur­ban July in South Africa? Yes I do try to make it ev­ery year, but it is a party like no other with some high-class rac­ing thrown in for good mea­sure. I love Royal Ascot and Glo­ri­ous Good­wood, and I am a huge fan of the New­mar­ket July course, but Greyville is dif­fer­ent gravy.

The cost of liv­ing here is far cheaper than back home in the UK, and it only costs about £2 to get in to the races (ob­vi­ously the VIP ar­eas come sep­a­rately), and you can get some de­cent snacks (hot­dogs, burg­ers, ba­con rolls, curry, ke­babs, and so on for £2 to £4 a time, which leaves the UK food out­lets hang­ing their heads in shame. A beer is about £1, a G&T £2, and to be hon­est I strug­gled to be on best be­hav­iour at those prices and wait un­til I had fin­ished my work be­fore par­tak­ing.

The mid­dle of the course is ba­si­cally part of the Royal Dur­ban Golf Course but there is no putting on race day as the course is taken over by a sea of hos­pi­tal­ity tents, a live mu­sic venue, and the ever-pop­u­lar fash­ion show that has to be seen to be be­lieved. Those who know me will be quite aware I am in no po­si­tion to talk about any­thing to do with fash­ion, but even I can see the ef­fort that so many peo­ple have put in to their out­fits (and how much money), though it is the colour that has to be seen to be be­lieved. Noth­ing is deemed too bright, too out­ra­geous, too short, too long, too loose, or too tight though I did take is­sue with some of the mod­els com­ment­ing that it was a huge fash­ion show with a bit of rac­ing in the back­ground – cough, cough, it’s the other way around.

Hav­ing sneaked a free glass of bub­bly or two pass­ing the hos­pi­tal­ity suites (it would be rude not to par­take), I grabbed a Shi­warma (like a posh ke­bab) and moved back un­der the course to the rac­ing side to en­joy the rest of the day.

Justin Snaith is a bit of a hero in the South African rac­ing scene and started the day with a bang win­ning the opener, but it was on the poly­track and no way am I bor­ing you with each and ev­ery race when you don’t know the horses, jock­eys, train­ers or own­ers. What I will add is that rac­ing here is NOT third world, they take it very seri- ously, have one of the most ef­fi­cient breed­ing oper­a­tions imag­in­able and are try­ing again to get the ex­port pro­to­cols changed to al­low them to race on level terms around the world to see just how good their horses re­ally are.

I add that para­graph as I was re­ally look­ing for­ward to the Group One Dur­ban Golden Horse­shoe over 1,400 me­tres (seven fur­longs-ish) for twoyear-old colts and geld­ings, and per­haps one of these will be step­ping over­seas to try their luck next sea­son. Mike de Kock stepped up to the plate for a stable one-two as did owner Ham­dan Al Mak­toum as Barahin saw off my bet So­qrat by a nose with over three lengths back to the third-placed Sulka. It looked a de­cent enough race to these eyes and the first two are clearly pretty de­cent and worth watch­ing in South Africa and pos­si­bly else­where in the long term.

Amaz­ingly the af­ter­noon was now rush­ing by, and the next race was the big one – 18 run­ners over a 2200 me­tres trip (eleven fur­longs or so) with a turn in to an 18-me­tre wide straight that seemed to have “trou­ble” writ­ten all over it. Yes, it is a hand­i­cap, and I have been ar­gu­ing with my Aus­tralian col­leagues that hand­i­caps can­not be Grade Ones (to no avail), but it looked to be one hell of a race in the off­ing. My Rand were al­ready down on Justin Snaith’s Do It Again.

Af­ter lap­ping up the last of the sun­shine (it’s win­ter here which con­fuses me to­tally), I made the most of my pad­dock pass to watch the run­ners pa­rade pre-race af­ter skip­ping the pre­race jockey pre­sen­ta­tion. I’m not go­ing to pre­tend I can spot the win­ner in the pad­dock, and no great shock to find they all looked an ab­so­lute pic­ture ahead of such a pres­ti­gious con­test, but it still gave me the ex­cuse to drink in the sur­round­ings and pinch my­self for be­ing so lucky.

On to the race it­self and I ex­pected a hell-for-leather pace from the off but it started at a crawl which seemed likely to cause a pile up. That forced favourite African Night Sky to take it up and make the last half mile or more to try to come home in front, but I am de­lighted to say it wasn’t to be as my tip Do It Again won un­der An­ton Mar­cus from Made To Con­quer and Elu­sive Sky for a Snaith one-two-three­five in a sea­son he will never for­get.

Add the fact that jockey An­ton Mar­cus was rid­ing his fifth Dur­ban July win­ner (a record – ev­ery­one else has been stuck on four), and I wit­nessed South African rac­ing his­tory be­ing made

De­spite five more races only one had the po­ten­tial to be of In­ter­na­tional im­por­tance as the Grade One Gar­den Prov­ince Stakes saw Snow­dance forced to race over a mile yet again with so few op­por­tu­ni­ties for the daugh­ter of Cap­tain Al over six fur­longs, which is ap­par­ently her ideal trip.

She is the one trainer Justin Snaith sug­gested would be up to com­pet­ing abroad if and when their horses get to travel, and I for one would love to see that af­ter she took it up a fur­long out be­fore get­ting mowed down close home and was out­stayed by Red­berry Lane un­der the ex­cel­lent Lyle He­wit­son.

I do feel sym­pa­thy for the run­nerup’s con­nec­tions who must be dis­traught at the lack of top class sprint races at home, but they may yet be to our ben­e­fit with a trip to Royal Ascot a pos­si­bil­ity if the out­dated quar­an­tine rules are fi­nally re­laxed.

De­cid­ing I am not well enough equipped to take part in the 13th race (look it up if you dare), I set­tled down to a drink and a bite to eat be­fore try­ing des­per­ately to think of a way to sum­marise the Dur­ban July. It is loud and proud, colour to the extremes, all senses at­tacked with food smells as en­tic­ing as any­where and top class com­pet­i­tive rac­ing. Noth­ing to dis­like and plenty to love, and in a coun­try that makes you so wel­come you feel at home in a mat­ter of hours. See you there next year — I hope.

Greyville Race­course in Dur­ban

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