The 2016 renewal of South Africa’s greatest race, the Vodacom Durban July, has punters spinning to find a winner and bookies furiously studying the form books trying to decipher the collateral form and price up correctly. It’s a conundrum Dublin Duffy will try to unravel by following the money in this year’s event.
The opening betting (at the end of April) was dominated by then reigning turf champions Legal Eagle and Abashiri. Legal Eagle, merit rated 120 and champion older horse was priced up the 28/10 favourite while Triple Crown winner Abashiri was next best at 4/1. Sean Tarry soon cast doubts about Legal Eagle’s participation and over the course of the ante-post betting it drifted to 14/1 before shortening back to 13/2 when the weights were declared.
Few punters saw value in Abashiri and it drifted to a best price 12/1 when there were doubts it would run. Abashiri is clearly a top horse but many pundits argue it has to give weight to its peers and it continues to trade around 10/1.
Grade 1 performer French Navy opened at 10/1 and next in the betting were a host of other 3-year-olds, where the form was a little topsy-turvy and no potential star had been identified. Rabada (16/1), Brazuca (20/1), Silver Mountain (14/1) and New Predator (33/1) all had decent form while older horses Inara (16/1), Deo Juvente (25/1), Mac de Lago (33/1), The Conglomerate (33/1) and Summer Cup Master Sabina (40/1) all had a smattering of support.
The principal trial races for the July then opened up a bag of opportunities for the well informed and the shrewdies. Black Arthur, which opened at 45/1, was backed in to 12/1 before the KZN Guineas and its emphatic win in that race, together with the Delpech’s comment that it was his July mount saw it top the boards at 4/1 the following day. The Snaith’s and Delpech had double Guineas winners in May and Bela Bela was a 40/1 chance for the July prior to its victory. Odds were slashed to 14/1 and its subsequent cruise in the Woolavington saw odds further drop to 10/1. Bela Bela was doubtful for the July right up to the final declarations and with Delpech now choosing the filly, it is installed as the ruling favourite at around 9/2.
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The Greyville 1900, run two weeks after the Guineas has always been a pointer to the July and here Solid Speed, which had been supported from an opening call of 100/1 to 33/1, proved victorious and booked its place. The runner-up St Tropez saw its odds slashed from 150/1 to 16/1 after a courageous effort, while third-placed Dynamic was cut from 100/1 to 40/1. St Tropez may be 2kg worse off with the winner this time but does have the services of Superman, Anton Marcus.
The Daily News 2000 in late May then highlighted the well-being of some additional contenders. In a falsely run race, the race favourite, Rabada scraped home ahead of It’s My Turn, backed from 10/1 to 7/2 for that race, and Mambo Mime.
Rabada, trading at 14/1 for the July before the run was shortened in to 8/1 and It’s My Turn, originally 50/1 for the July shortened from 16/1 pre-race to 8/1. Mambo Mime caught the eye with a late surge for third in the race and halved its 66/1 opening price to 33/1. Further support in recognition of its wellbeing have seen those odds halve again. Other July hopefuls Rocketball (opened at 100/1) and Ten Gun Salute (100/1) were close behind but Samurai Blade (50/1) ran poorly.
Meanwhile, down in the Cape a star was emerging in the form of Marinaresco. Third in the Cape Derby behind It’s My Turn, the Bass inmate was priced up at 100/1 in the early betting. Its win in the Winter Guineas saw it shorten to 20/1 but the facile victory in the Classic propelled it near the top of the boards at 8/1.
The final July prep race was the Cup Trial and here Dynamic put up a gutsy performance in second, finishing ahead of Saratoga Dancer (150/1, now 66/1) and The Conglomerate but it’s hard to see this form representing a realistic July winner.
French Navy, possibly a couple of pounds short of the best, is a reliable campaigner but is now burdened with top weight of 60kgs. It opened at 10/1 for the race, eased out to around 14/1 in light of the money for the 3-year-olds but has again found favour with punters who see the younger horses as being ‘out at the weights’.
Mac De Lago (33/1 in to 12/1 and back to 28/1) has been a consistent campaigner for Weiho Marwing and was duly rewarded in winning the Rising Sun Challenge. However that win raised the merit rating and it now shoulders 59.5kgs, giving weight to all but one.
Summer Cup winner Master Sabina (40/1 to 33/1 and now 28/1) has won over the course and distance and must be respected with Gavin Lerena in the saddle. The 2015 KZN guineas winner The Conglomerate (33/1 to 50/1, in to 20/1 and back to 25/1) showed a glimpse of form in the Cup Trial but has the widest draw to contend with and even the Strydom magic should be thwarted.
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ReserveWith Rabada having been scratched, original reserve runner Trophy Wife has been elevated to the final field. The Bay filly gets the services of former July winning Jockey S'manga Khumalo who rode Heavy Metal to victory back in 2013. The final reserve runner left is The Deputy Jud (50/1 to 200/1) He would be a serious roughie if he made the field.
Gone and Forgotten
There have been a number of ‘casualties’ already. Foremost would be the original favourite Legal Eagle, but backers were constantly reminded to be wary by the connections. Deo Juvente (25/1 to 14/1 and out to 33/1) found solid support before being pulled out of the race in its preparation run and consequently failing to make the field. Multiple Group winners Inara (16/1 to 100/1) and Silver Mountain (14/1 to 100/1) were possibly never going to line up in the July, with the prospects of other restricted Group races at their mercy. Both may have had stamina limitations anyway. The last horse to fall by the way was Rabada who was pulled from contention early on Thursday the 29th of June.
As the betting indicates, it’s a wide open race and all but three horses have had their opening odds slashed. The ‘big’ money has come for the three-year olds Marinaresco, Bela Bela and Black Arthur with French Navy also being solidly supported. Black Arthur is my selection, to burst through and collar Master Sabina, Mambo Mime and St Tropez. However, it might be better to throw a dart at the board this year! Be it at the track or in front of your TV, have fun, shout and cheer your horse home! Happy punting!