With another memorable Durban July done and dusted, it’s all systems go for the final stage of ‘July Fever’ in South Africa tomorrow as the Mercury Sprint, the last major G1 sprint of the season, takes centre stage. Durban’s Greyville Racecourse hosts the R800,000 ($55,300) race over 1,200m (six furlongs) for the second time. It was run at the city’s Clairwood track until 2014.
Greyville offers a nine-race card on Saturday with the Mercury due off at 3.30 p.m. South African time (9.30 a.m. EDT, 6.30 a.m PST). The day also features the Umkhomazi Stakes, the Debutante, the Off to Stud Handicap and the Queen Palm Handicap.
Although it does not quite carry the status of the Durban July and the Summer Cup, the Mercury is quickly becoming a sought-after contest for South Africa’s rising stars.
Last year, it was Captain Of All who took the spoils, and other top-line winners have included What A Winter (2012) and JJ The Jet Plane (2010), helping the race to prove itself as the top weight-for-age sprint in South Africa.
Talktothestars, currently the highest-rated horse in the country, is this year’s favorite. The 5-year-old gelding from Coenie de Beer’s barn has been given a wide barrier draw, which could make things difficult for him at the start. His 2 1/4-length victory over African Ruler in the Tsogo Sun Sprint at Scottsville, though, still provides a good reason to back him.
Real Princess, winner of the Fillies Sprint, has a good barrier of eight, a 5 ½-pound allowance and the guidance of veteran jockey Anthony Delpech, who has won multiple Durban Julys between 1998 and 2011. So she could be one to watch.
Jockey Piere Strydom, who won the Durban July just two weeks ago on the Joey Ramsden-trained The Conglomerate, has switched allegiance from Talktothestars to Trip Tease. He previously teamed up with Trip Tease to win the Pinnacle Stakes, the gelding’s 15th win in 25 starts and his sixth with Strydom in the saddle.
Trip To Heaven (drawn five) is back after losing the 1,600m G1 Gold Challenge on objection to Mac De Lago. The 5-year-old gelding finished seventh in last year’s Mercury.
For the climax of ‘July Fever’, those South African fans unable to head down to the Greyville Racecourse to watch the Mercury Sprint can watch the race live on local TV. Across the Atlantic, U.S. fans can also enjoy the Mercury in real-time as well as place bets by heading to Advance Deposit Wagering sites such as TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, and NYRA Rewards. American fans can get free entries, form guides and tips for the Mercury Sprint at Sky Racing World’s website australianracing.com.
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.