They’re set for Africa’s answer to the Kentucky Derby

Huge crowds and equestrian pageantry at the Durban July. Photo:

Just over a mile west of Durban’s beachfront, a verdant patch of land shapes the turf of the historic Greyville Racecourse. This is where over 50,000 racing fans will assemble tomorrow for Africa’s greatest horse race – the G1 Vodacom Durban July, which is off at 4.20 pm South African time (10.20 a.m. EST and 7.20 a.m. PST) and can be seen live in the U.S.

With extravagant fashions, time-honored traditions, champion Thoroughbreds and, of course, a purse that tops all others locally, the Durban July offers equestrian pageantry that makes it Africa’s answer to the Kentucky Derby. For the 120th running, the prize money has been increased to a record R4.25 million ($280,000).     

Challenging the cream of the crop is what this mile-and-three-furlong (2,200m) race has always been about. The Durban’s tendency to draw the best middle-distance runners from across the country and overseas has made it the leading race in South African.

The Durban July has also produced winners that went on to gain further recognition in the U.S. The 1963 winner, Colorado King, raced in the States afterwards, winning the 1964 Hollywood Gold Cup. He also set a world record for nine furlongs when he conquered the American Handicap at Hollywood Park. More recently, 2002 winner Ipi Tombe claimed first place in the G3 Locust Grove race at Churchill Downs the following year.

The 65 nominations for this year’s Durban July were unveiled at the launch of Champions Season 2016, the program of feature races at Greyville from May until the end of July. Also known as July Fever, the season also includes the Tsogo Sun Sprint, the City Of Pietermaritzburg Fillies Sprint, the Rising Sun Gold Challenge and the Woolavington 2000.

Tomorrow’s big-race favorite is the Woolavington 2000 winner, the Justin Snaith-trained 3-year-old filly Bela-Bela, who will be ridden by Anthony Delpech. The jockey has already won the Durban four times, most recently in 2011.

The Weichong Marwing-ridden 4-year-old gelding French Navy is the bookies’ next favorite, closely followed by another gelding, Solid Speed, from Dean Kannemeyer’s stables.

American fans can get free entries, form guides and tips at Sky Racing World's website Betting and live-streaming of the race is available at Advance Deposit Wagering sites like TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, and NYRA Rewards.

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.

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