A sell-out crowd of 55,000 will pack Greyville Racecourse in Durban, South Africa on Saturday, July 2, for one of the Southern Hemisphere’s great racing occasions, Vodacom Durban July day. The centrepiece, the 11-furlong Durban July Handicap, which is being run for the 120th time this year, is an all-aged contest that grips the nation. It has been won by some of the finest Thoroughbreds in the country’s history. David Haslett looks at five historic moments that have helped shape the race’s legacy.
Mowgli’s 1952 Natal winter season sweep
The G. A. Ellis-trained Mowgli’s narrow victory in a sensational renewal was the highlight of a winter season in which he claimed five other G1s in 12 weeks.
The two minutes of the Durban July became an intense showdown as Mowgli went head to head with the robust Radlington down the home stretch.
What made Mowgli’s story so extraordinary is that he achieved his career-defining feats after an operation for respiratory issues.
Sea Cottage’s dead-heat with Jollify in 1967
Sea Cottage is perhaps South Africa’s most famous racehorse, and certainly his dead-heat in the 1967 Durban July is among the most cherished memories of the race.
Sea Cottage was already a phenomenon before forcing a dead-heat in a fierce battle with Jollify, to whom he was conceding 20 pounds more than weight for age. Starting at 11-10, he became the longest-priced winning favorite of the Durban July.
Millard’s 1986 Durban July dominion
Terrance Millard became the first South African trainer to earn more than R2 million ($131,000) in a season when he saddled the first three home in the 1986 Durban July. But it was the least favored of the trio, Occult, who triumphed, with the apparently more fancied Fools Holme and Enchanted Garden following him home in that order.
A sick horse and a host of records
There were milestones galore after the 25th running. Attendance and tote figures were records, and the race produced the first 3-year-old winner since 1973.
That was Bush Telegraph, who had been racing only against horses of his own age - and had suffered from pneumonia during the build-up to the race. Experts predicted Bush Telegraph would be unable to handle the distance, but the colt rose to the challenge with an impressive 1¼ length win in a record time of 2 minutes 13.5 seconds.
A victory for democracy!
The result of the 2004 Durban July was an emotional one for many South African racegoers. Aptly themed ‘Over the Rainbow’, this edition coincided with the celebration of 10 years of democracy in the country. As such, the No.10 horse was chosen to wear the South African flag on its saddle.
Although this honor was bestowed upon an American-bred horse, Greys Inn, he nevertheless made fans proud when he delivered a stellar winning run from just outside the 200-metre mark.
THIS YEAR'S Durban July will continue to offer top-notch horse racing to South African and international race fans, as well as two other major racing events – the Summer Cup in Johannesburg and Cape Town’s L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
Punters in the U.S. can watch these and other South African races live seven days a week at Advanced Deposit Wagering sites like TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, MyWinners, WatchandWager, and NYRA Rewards.
Sky Racing World’s website australianracing.com also provides American punters with live streaming, free past-performance form and tips.
David Haslett, a former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April, 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.