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Durban July preview

2014 Vodacom Durban July Betting Preview

Written by Alan Moscrop, @alanmoscrop
Courtesy of Goodforthegame.za


The 2014 Vodacom Durban July takes place at Greyville on Saturday, and Alan Moscrop previews all the runners and shares his selections on this years big race.

The KZN winter racing season is in full flow and excitement will reach fever-pitch come Saturday as the field line up for the Grade One Vodacom Durban July, to be run over 2200m around the Greyville track. Twelve months ago history was made when leading rider S'manga Khumalo became the first black jockey to ride the winner of South Africa's biggest race, partnering the Sean Tarry trained Heavy Metal to success with a powerful run up the Greyville run-in. Khumalo, or 'Bling' as his nickname goes, again takes a ride for the Tarry yard and will be bidding to land the race for the stable for the third year running, with the yard having been successful in 2012 with Pomodoro.

The draw was made last week and it was mixed fortunes for some of runners topping the betting. Daily News 2000 winner Legislate didn't fare that well with stall 14 going his way, while main market rivals Louis The King and Rakes Chestnut, from the Geoff Woodruff Yard, fared better with draws of 10 and 5 respectively. The Brett Crawford trained Futura, who just made the final cut, has drawn very well is gate number 3, just outside Mike de Kock's sole representative Espumanti, who jumps from gate 2.

The full field, with jockeys, trainers and draw, is as follows:

Last week the official gallops took place at Greyville, and for those who like to take something from the event you can read up on the gallops report in this article from Gold Circle. Personally I completely ignore these as over the years the race outcome and how the runners have fared in the gallops have little correlation, and last year's winner Heavy Metal wasn't even present, with punters only having a video of a gentle workout up the highveld to gauge his well-being. For the record the expert pundits at the track last week liked the look of a few of the three year olds, Legislate especially, and of the older horses Punta Arenas was a popular pick.

But let's waste little more time and move on to this years field, starting with the crop of promising three year olds:

Three is the magic number?

In recent years punters have often split the field into the top up and coming three year olds versus the more experienced and proven older horses, and that appears no difference again this year, although the crop of younger sorts do look well above average this current season. Leading the charge is the Justin Snaith trained Legislate, who's seeking to land the Daily News 2000 / Durban July double and give his handler a second July success, after he won the race jointly with Dancers Daughter in 2008. Legislate has won three on the bounce in impressive style, including two Grade one's in the Derby and Daily News over 2000m, with a facile KZN Guineas victory over the mile sandwiched in-between. He possesses that all important smart turn-of-foot that winning the July is often about, demonstrating that last time out when coming from well off the pace while racing wide to get to the front in a matter of moments. A big run is expected and Snaith will be hoping to go one better than his runner up finish with Run For It twelve months ago.

Topping the betting at around 9/2, at the time of writing, is the triple crown winner Louis The King, who will aim to expand on a remarkable career that has seen him earn over R3.5 million for his connections in just 8 starts. Out of unfashionable sire Black Minnaloushe, who has produced some good sorts in the past that have cost very little at the sales, Louis The King is a gutsy type and showed in the SA Derby over 2450m that there's no concerns over his ability to see out the trip. He looked a touch undercooked on his provincial debut in the Daily News 2000 when being out of his ground early on, before finishing with a rattle for a 1.3L third behind Legislate, but he did have a tough campaign on the highveld and may have been given a little bit of time to freshen up before the race. He ran the fastest 400m to finish time that day and trainer Geoff Woodruff has commented that he's looked very well in the last week and like Snaith, he too expects a huge run from his stable star.

From the same yard comes the lightly raced Rakes Chestnut, who's been the subject of waves of betting support since his cracking run in the Daily News behind Legislate, when he flew up for a narrow second in his debut in graded company. His merit rating was hiked up from 90 to 109 on that run and the general feeling was that had it not been for some crucial traffic problems encountered 200m out, he would surely have overhauled Legislate. It was a stunning way to announce his credentials as a serious contender in this years July and some shrewd punters are surely sitting on some tasty looking ante-post tickets. Anton Marcus keeps the ride and is looking for a record 5th July success, which would come 21 years after his first win back in 1993 on Dancing Duel.

Another trainer with a pair of promising three year olds is Brett Crawford, who suffered disappointment in this race 2 years ago when warm favourite Jackson was unable to live up to expectations. This time around he has the highly rated Futura, who's generally around a 7/1 fourth favourite, and the Captain Al colt Captain America, who's near double the price at around 12/1 to 14/1. The latter was quicker to make his mark in racing circles when starting his career a couple months earlier, picking up a big cheque in the Ready to Run stakes at Kenilworth in just his fifth start. He then stepped up to the 3yr old feature races and performed admirably with a a pair of runner-up finishes in both the Cape Guineas and Cape Derby, although he was a beaten favourite on both occasions. Captain America's two runs in KZN haven't quite had the sparkle from his earlier career form and he lacked a strong kick when needed most up the short Greyville straight. Concerns over his keenness when racing will make many look to his stablemate more so, however at 14/1 he'll have plenty supporters, especially given he was the early July favourite a few months back.

Stablemate Futura has the joint lowest Merit Rating of the male horses in the field and was the last runner to make the final 16, however his current price of around 7/1 gives evidence that the stable and punters alike are expecting a big showing from the son of Dynasty, who won the July back in 2003. Futura has shot up the ratings thanks to some eye-catching performances on his way to winning his first two starts in KZN, including when showing a devastating change-of-gears to take the Betting World 1900 consolation race in May. He was expected to follow up with victory in the Cup Trial but was found out by a slowly run race and finished a disappointing third, which almost cost him the chance to appear in the July. But he's here and stable-jockey Glenn Hatt has chosen the ride over Captain America, which could be an indication of where the stable expect their biggest chance of the win to come from. A plum draw, light mass and bags of scope for improvement make him a huge runner.

The last of the 3 year olds is one of the females in the race, the beautifully bred Jet Master filly In The Fast Lane, a second runner in the race for Justin Snaith and around 12/1 in the betting market. She flew through the divisions in style as an early 3 year old and took the GR1 Cape Fillies Guineas in emphatic fashion back in December, before showing up well amongst older horses when running on strongly for second behind the brilliant Beach Beauty in the in Paddock Stakes in Queens Plate day. Her next outing in the Majorca Stakes was a completely out-of-sorts display and is the first time In The Fast Lane has ever finished out the money, but she's since showed her well-being with two excellent efforts at Greyville, her last run being an ideal prep when taking the Grade 1 Woolavington over the 2000m. Only Snaith will know how close she is to the boys on a line through their work at home with Legislate, but three year old fillies have popped up in the July before, with Do You Remember grabbing a a surprise third last year. The 12/1 odds for In The Fast Lane suggest bookies won't be making the same mistake of underestimating the Grade one form of the fillies.

Girl power?

Aside from In The Fast Lane, the fairer sex are represented by three other runners in the race, the most fancied of these being the de Kock trained Espumanti, who's currently around a 5th favourite at 10/1. Having been born sired in the northern hemisphere she's a lot younger than other 4 year olds, but she's really picked up her game this second half of the season and it's quite obvious Espumanti has now caught up to her counterparts, after going through a poor patch over the summer. She did impress as a three year old and has shown real versatility with wins from 1160m thru to the mile, before landing one of the big qualifying races for the July, The Betting World 1900, under a smart ride from Anthony Delpech, who was impressed in the post-race interview with how this filly has strengthened up. Winning the July with a female horse is old-rope for Mike de Kock, having done so with Ipi Tombe and more recently Igugu, and with a perfect inside draw and a liking for the course, it would be little surprise to see de Kock train his fifth Durban July winner.

Last season Cherry On The Top looked unstoppable at one point and looked firmly on course for a big run at the Durban July, before she flopped in her first run away from Turffontein when only finishing fourth when odds on for the Woolavington. Her trainer Ormond Ferraris subsequently gave her a 4 month break and she just didn't retain the sparkle of her previous form in three runs amongst Grade 1 and Grade 2 company, before being given another spell on the sidelines. Her displays the last couple months have been more encouraging, getting the better of Espumanti over 2000m in April, and how meets her on 1kg better terms. It was the her next and final run which does leave me scratching my head a bit, where she had to be worked on a bit before staying on for third behind Kilua Castle. I expected her to win the day and will well, but she looked a touch undercooked and may have needed the run. Ferraris is a master at getting his horses right for the big races so it's would be prudent to expect some significant improvement from Cherry On The Top on that last effort, although the wide draw is a concern. I do have a soft spot for her this weekend as she has been my main ante-post bet for the July and am hopeful she can find her best form.

The final filly in the race is the Glen Kotzen trained Jet Belle, who's the big outsider in the race at around 66/1. She has shown some form in graded company, notably when a fast finishing third in the last seasons Woolavington at Greyville, but there still looks to be question marks around her stamina and ability in this sort of class. A handy galloping weight does give her some sort of chance, but being drawn in the sticks counters that and it would be a shock to see her finish in the money.

Four love nor money?

The male four year old contingent is made up of the quartet Capetown Noir, King of Pain, Tellina & Wylie Hall, and although four year olds have the most wins in the history of the July at 43, they've only won 35% of the last 20 years versus the 55% of wins that have gone to three year olds in the same period. However Heavy Metal proved it could be done when winning 12 months ago and the respective trainers will have their charges spot on for Saturday. Capetown Noir is the most fancied in the betting at around 14/1, and his trainer Dean Kannemeyer will be hoping his colt will find his best form in blinkers for the first time. The headgear has been called for after a below par effort last time out, and there's still some lingering concerns over his stamina, although his trainer feels he's got the trip in him. His form over the mile is bullet-proof and he should have won the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut at Turffontein in March when suffering interference at a crucial stage. His last two runs did have a 'prep' feel about them and he's another in the field with a smart turn of foot, although like last year he's been unlucky in the draw and will jump from stall 15.

King of Pain won the Rising Sun Challenge in June to cement his place in the field, but it was a race run at no pace whatsoever and it's questionable how that result will stand up over the next few outings. But he's certainly got class and has won back-to-back races since being fitted with the blinkers. He does carry top weight and also races around the right-hand-turn for the first time, both factors that for me throw up some big question marks, although if there's no pace on King of Pain could be one of the outsiders to take advantage.

Geoff Woodruff's third runner in the race is the Silvano colt Tellina, who at one point was fancied for the Durban July last year when taking the Gauteng Guineas, but he put in a very poor run in the Daily News 2000 and was given some time off the track thereafter. Returning to his favourite Turffontein track he's shown consistent form with a win and a number of placed efforts in graded company, although his final prep race was a worryingly lacklustre display. His sire Silvano had a 4 year old winner last year with Heavy Metal which is a good omen, but Tellina does look unsuited to the track and is another who would be a surprise to see him troubling the judge.

Wylie Hall represents the Weiho Mawing yard and was 10th in the race last year, coming back for another crack this time around as a four year old. He has shown a liking for the track before when flying for a 0.25L fourth in the 2013 Daily News 2000, and he should perhaps been closer last time out in the Champion Challenge when eased at the 350m mark before running on for fourth. Oddly that was his last outing and is the one runner in the field who comes into the contest with no real prep race. Wylie Hall has won returning from a break in the past but that was in a pinnacle stakes race, and the Durban July is simply another ball-game. He's a gutsy sort and I wouldn't completely rule him out, but does need to produce a massive career best effort to trouble those higher up in the betting.

Older but wiser?

The final few runners of the field to run through are those who've got experience in their side, being 5 years old or above. Sean Tarry is going for a third July in a row and obviously deserves the utmost respect, and his two runners are Halve The Deficit and Whiteline Fever. The former looks like the possible dark-horse in the race, not just because of Tarry's recent record in the big one, but due to his excellent form this season and the added bonus of having Pierre Strydom on board, who's sure to get the most out of the son of Right Approach. Halve The Deficit has won 3 of his last 6 starts and placed in the other 3, and Tarry sent him down for some experience at Greyville when he finished 2.3L third behind Espumanti in the Betting World 1900. He was pipped in his final prep by Kilua Castle in the Jubilee Handicap last month, and it's worth noting that Heavy Metal was runner up in the same race before going on to win the July last year, so clearly Tarry likes this route to this weekend's race.

From the same yard comes the talented but sometimes inconsistent Whiteline Fever, who with 34 runs under his belt is the most experienced campaigner in the field. It's his third shot at the July and he finished 8th in 2012 behind Pomodoro when just 2.75L back, and 6th last year. He's since shown some excellent form here and there but always over much shorter trips, and he remains once who just seems to lack a finish in the final 200m. His run in the J&B Met was promising when staying on well for 4th, but at a third time of asking he doesn't look a likely winner here, but with Tarry's form and 2013 winning jockey S'manga Khumalo in the irons, he'll still have his supporters on the day.

Last but not least is the Stan Elley trained Punta Arenas, who is bidding to become the first 6 year old since 1980 to win the July. He was a well-beaten 12th in 2013, despite being the subject of decent betting support on the day when backed in from 45/1 into 18/1. Punta Arenas hasn't won since April 2013, which must be of concern to his chances, but has performed more than adequately in Graded company this season, with his Met third place finish a stand-out effort. He does tend to do his best work late these days and reportedly looked in excellent condition at the recent gallops, but with a wide draw to contend with he does need a few things to go his way on Saturday to be a contender.

SUMMARY & SELECTIONS

With no clear firm favourite and a field blessed with some talent across both age and gender, this year's Durban July looks to be one of the most competitive in many seasons and most of the field have some sort of winning claims. But as always we need to narrow down the field for selection purposes and my opinion is that the winner will come from the following 4 -

Louis The King
Cherry On The Top
Capetown Noir
Legislate

I have two 3 year olds in my short-list, with both Legislate and Louis The King at the top of the betting, while I have a gut feel that Cherry On The Top will make a bold bid and will be the best of the fillies, while my final selection Capetown Noir is from a stable I respect massively when it comes to the July and I have to include him in my top 4.

I'll be placing my staking plan around the above four runners, but for the win I'm going to go with Cherry On The Top and Capetown Noir as my headline selections.

BET: Cherry On The Top win @ 25/1, Capetown Noir @ 14/1 (prices generally available at time of writing)

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