The Durban July – What A Meeting and What A Party!

And so, the day has finally arrived and I am comfortably ensconced in the (rather cosy) Media office here at Greyville ahead of a long day of twelve class races with the highlight being the Durban July aka Race 7.

Food – cheap and with a sense of humour.

Much as I love everything about South African racing, that doesn’t mean everyone has that addiction and I am not going to bore you all to death about every horse in every race (you will be delighted to know), and am focusing on trying (badly) to describe the colour and the atmosphere, a job perhaps better suited to a poet laureate than a racing scribe like yours truly.

Arriving bright and early the crowds were already building outside ahead of the big day so we rushed in for a coffee, though I was far more interested in checking out the on-course food options – purely for business purposes as I am sure you understand. At the risk of repeating myself, if costs #30 plus to get in to a normal race meeting in the UK and then they rob you blind for both food and drink – not so in South Africa with a tenner entry fee (or thereabouts), and a plethora of food and drink options for me to “investigate” – bad for the waistline but not too harsh on the wallet.

Fashion – nothing is unusual here.

Chips and dip for just over a pound, savoury pancakes for a couple, local delicacy bunny chow (curry IN a bread roll) for three pounds, plus all sorts of other delicacies and all at affordable prices. More variety at better prices equals happy punters seems a pretty obvious equation that the UK horses could do well to look at, but having stuffed my face (I recommend the chilli bites!), it was time for me to bit the bullet – and take on the drinks stalls on your behalf purely for research purposes.

A beer (lager) set me back £2 closely followed by a gin and tonic (from a dedicated G&T stall, how good is that) which cost me £3, so I won’t go on any longer and I am pretty sure you get my point, but are you listening British racecourses – sadly I doubt it with selective hearing a racing problem.

After an eye-opening visit to the Fashion Village (modest is not a word in use, I can assure you), I returned to the relative sanity of racecourse side to witness the first of the Graded races which saw a pretty impressive win from Crowd Pleaser who looked a horse to stay on the right side of. I had decided pre-meeting that it was focussing on a combination of impressive winners and the big races only but the son of Captain Al had the race in the bag a long long way from the finishing line and although tiring a little close home, he looks more than capable of following up next time out if kept to similar grade.

We had a Stewards Enquiry and a result change in Race 4 which resulted in a jubilant (and VERY loud) owner who was over the moon to get the race for Hermuso Mundo albeit in the Stewards room, though in England I confess it wouldn’t be seen as polite to over celebrate another owner’s misfortune, deserved as it was or not.

Marinaresco wins the Durban July – photo by Mathea Kelley.

As the crowd grew by the minute (they don’t seem to bother with the first few races and turn up as the day goes on), we moved on to the juvenile races where there was a chance to glean something for future reference if nothing else. Desert Rhythm won the Gold Circle Golden Slipper well but wasn’t impressive enough for her to be added to the little black book, while the colts equivalent that followed (the Golden Horseshoe), saw a win for trainer Sean Tarry (again), this time with an outsider in Purple Diamond who scored art odds of 16/1 under jockey Nooresh Juglall who is better known in Singapore, and had perhaps slipped under the radar a little.

On to the big race next and despite a long gap between races the time was filled with jokey parades, plenty of information on all the runners, and the National Anthem which was impeccably observed as always. The race is always one of the more exciting on the racing calendar and 2017 was no exception as top weight Marinaresco held on all out from the fast finishing pair of Al Sahem and my selection Edit Of Nantes, but credit where it’s due and giving two and a half kilos and more to all of this field makes the son of Silvano a superstar in my book, and congratulations to Candice Bass-Robinson on winning the race with her very first runner since taking over the stable, to jockey Bernard Fayd’herbe, and of course the horse himself who was going one better than last year and may well have his best years still ahead of him.

Bela-Bela strolls home – photo by Mathea Kelley.

Although licking my wounds with a place only return (a pittance), I was looking forward to the run of Bela-Bela next (ignoring the two races in between), with the plan of recouping all my losses and then some. Justin Snaith had seemed confident earlier in the week so I decided to follow that to the letter as the four-year-old filly was sent off the short-priced favourite by race time, but a winner is a winner so who cares about the price. To say she was impressive may be a view through rose tinted glasses but she strolled away from a decent looking field to win as she pleased though it is a shame that she will now head off to the breeding paddocks where we can all await the arrival of her offspring with interest.

With the final two races a bit of an anti-climax to be fair, our long day drew to a close though not without a trip to speak to the local journalists (who just happen to have their own bar, what’s the chances of that),  After chewing the fat and talking BS as us “journos” do, we said our fond farewells and wandered off in to the dark after another amazing Durban July Meeting, with the majority of us hoping in secret that we get invited back next year – well worth every penny and a trip not to be missed if any of you ever get the chance to come over.






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