Robert Garner: It all starts now! The traditional betting spree ignited by the Vodacom Durban July will begin to gather momentum today and hundreds of millions of rand will have changed hands by the time the equine warriors head home from Greyville Racecourse tomorrow.
The script for this year’s race has Hollywood written all over it with an absorbing plot and subplots galore.
Effervescent Cape Town trainer Justin Snaith is cast in the lead role and will send out five runners in a bid to win Africa’s greatest horse race for the third time in 10 years.
Victory by any of his five will also guarantee him victory in the South African Trainers’ Championship for the second time in five years.
Some 50,000 people will be at Greyville to see the drama unfold. It’s the betting party of the year and always an amazing experience – gleaming thoroughbreds, famous people, marquees, high fashion and great chances to win big merging into nine hours of incredible excitement.
Tote betting giant TAB will process bets totalling about R140 million and the TAB menu offers the millions of once-a-year players the chance to win loads of cash for small outlays.
Tote pools across the board will be huge and a R3-million carryover to the Greyville Pick 6 is the talk of racing. TAB is guaranteeing an R11-million pool, but it’s more likely to be R13 million. Pick the winners of Races 4 to 9 and you could collect a life-changing payout if a couple of outsiders win.
The biggest TAB pool will be the Quartet on the July. That’s expected to top R16 million and it’s easy to have a chance of winning a share. Pick four horses, play a Quartet Box with TAB and spend from R6 (for 25% of the payout) to R24 (the full cost).
It speaks volumes for Snaith’s ability that he has brought five high-class horses through their preparations without a hitch with all looking at the top of their game.
African Night Sky is dominating betting and it’s hard to fault his claims. He was a close sixth to superstar stablemate Oh Susanna in the 2000m Sun Met at Kenilworth in January on disadvantageous weight terms and need only repeat that effort to win now.
But it’s a competitive race in which the runners carry different weights to roughly equalise their chances and he doesn’t look good value at his current odds.
Three of Snaith’s other runners – Do It Again, Elusive Silva and Made To Conquer – are among the top six in the betting and all could be in at the finish.
Elusive Silva and Made To Conquer are fairy tales waiting to come to life. A tendon injury suffered at last year’s July gallops was thought to have ended Elusive Silva’s racing career but he’s back. And 56-year-old jockey Jeff Lloyd, who’s about to retire, is here from Australia to ride Made To Conquer in a final bid to win the July at his 26th attempt.
Overall the three-year-olds look to have been allotted less weight than warranted, which brings Do It Again into the picture and the likes of good longshot Fiorella, Majestic Mambo and White River. What a race!