The 2019 Vodacom Durban July takes place at Greyville this weekend and this year’s edition has attracted a top class, competitive field to battle it out over the 2200m Grade 1 contest.
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It wouldn’t be too unkind to say there have been some fairly mediocre Durban July line-ups in recent years, however 2019 has bucked that trend in a massive way, with quality 3 year olds stepping up against the very best 4 year olds as well as some experienced, wise old heads. The Mike de Kock trained Hawwaam has been the money-horse since the master trainer signalled the yards intention to fire the talented Silvano colt at the big one, and he starts a warm favourite as he seeks to be the first 3 year old to land the July honours since 2012.
On a personal note I’ve already had a bit of minor disappointment for this years race as my early fancy Magnificent Seven made the final field, only to get scratched a couple days later. He looked the staying, robust sort who I felt would enjoy the rough finish that the July has become in recent years due to the tighter layout of the revamped Greyville track. But there were a few others that had also caught my eye early on and I’ll be focussing on these as well as the more fancied runners.
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Hawwaam has set local racing alight with a string of impressive Grade 1 victories with his only blemish being a second in the Gauteng Guineas when caught flat footed and too much to do. He’s been raced more handily since and jumping from a plum draw I’d expect Marcus to aim to have him just off the early leaders and not too far down the pack, as that would be the big risk for him in my view. You don’t want a three year old trying to weave through a pack and the size of this field and the shorter Greyville run-in does make the 5/2 a bit skinny in my book. Nonetheless, he’ll have many backers but I’ll be looking elsewhere for value.
Do It Again tries to attempt just that, defending his crown 12 months on and arrives in scintillating form after a well-fought success at Greyville a few weeks ago. We know he gets the trip, we know he likes a fight. I’m a touch concerned he may have over-peaked slightly early but that’s just a mild worry. Justin Snaith has sounded bullish for some time and at around 4/1 he’ll be right there and a PA banker for me in the exotics.
Rainbow Bridge has had one run over an extended trip and the 2000m success in the Met showed he should in theory be up for extra 200m on Saturday. He has tended to run on from off the pace so I’m really interested to see where top jock Gavin Lerena has him turning for home on Saturday. He did suffer a bit of interference in his final prep run last time out but I feel he was held by Do It Again. Can he reverse the formline this weekend? Time will tell.
Barahin looks one of the most intriguing participants as Mike de Kock throws him in as having excellent winning prospects based on recent stable comments. A clearly versatile sort with wins from 1200m up to 1800m on his last start, he’s chased home his star stablemate once before and gets the services of Muzi Yeni who is riding at the top of his game right now. The Greyville track will hold no surprises for Barahin where he has a 2 from 2 winning record.
Eyes Wide Open is another course specialist and at double figures around 12/1 he will attract plenty each-way support. Take away the course form he does however look held by a few here and is drawn out in the sticks, but that hasn’t stopped good horses winning here before. A danger who’s current form brings him into the mix despite better formlines elsewhere.
Twist of Fate tried to go with Hawwaam last time out and wasn’t beaten far into second. He gets a 2kg swing at the weights on his rival and will be having his peak run in KZN after an impressive Summer in the Cape. If Hawwaam has a big run, this 3year old colt could and should be right there in the money.
Made to Conquer has had support in recent days and last years July runner-up has zero stamina doubts, especially with just 53kg on his back. My concern is that he’s struggled to find the winners box for a while now and as a 5 year old are his best runs in the past? He’s a maybe for me but probably not in my shortlist. The veteran former horse of the year Legal Eagle tries his hand for another Grade 1 success but does need to find his better form to feature. There’s no doubting his class and reigning champion Lyle Hewitson takes the ride over the other Tarry inmates. At 30/1 and bigger he would be a popular winner for the romantics and bookmakers alike.
Head Honcho is around 33/1 and boasts a win on July day last year of the course and distance in the consolation race. He does carry a biggish weight and is also drawn very wide, and there’s probably a few stronger pacemakers in the field where he might not enjoy being able to set the tone himself early on. Doublemint is a similar price but does catch my eye with just 53kg when considering his 6th place finish in the J&B Met when lumping the same as the winner Rainbow Bridge. He’s not been disgraced since and he’s another who will be running at them late.
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Return Flight is one of the few females in the race and before her last run her formline was rock solid, however it wasn’t a great impression on her first outing in KZN when tiring quite tamely against the girls. This is a much tougher affair but oddly I have a sneaky feeling she could be one of the surprise packages in the race. The last Sean Tarry runner is the Summer Cup winner Tilbury Fort, who’s has 2 lacklustre efforts in recent months and he does need to show a dramatic return to form to fight for honours here.
At around 66/1 I rate Divine Odyssey as the one the bookies have slightly mispriced. He was 4L back from Hawwaam on their last meeting when running on and gets a 5.5kg better off swing at the weights. He’s very much at home over this trip and is bred for ground, and he’s the type I could see making a bold bid from the front as they turn for home. His last 2 victories came this way and the big-galloping son of Oratorio is one I think could pop-up in the money at a monster dividend.
Lady In Black is a quality filly who wasn’t disgraced last time out over the mile behind Do It Again, however the times she’s met the boys she’s fallen a bit short on class and would need to run a career high to feature. A repeat on her runner-up finishes to Oh Susanna might see her sneak into the minor place money.
Of the remaining few runners I really do battle to make a case for most of them contending on Saturday, but would consider Fresnaye as another who’s price looks a touch too big. She ran a cracker last time out when coming winding down the inside just get beat by a few good types and she appears to have a liking for the Durban surroundings.
Anyone who’s seen my picks from recent years will know I’m never really one to take a short price, and while the 5/2 on Hawwaam does tempt given his sheer ability, I simply have to look elsewhere for value, and my 2 each-way plays are –
TWIST OF FATE ew @ around 16/1. The 2kg swing he gets from Hawwaam will help and I’m looking for a horse that will give a real honest account of himself and he fits the bill perfectly.
RETURN FLIGHT ew at a big looking 66/1. This pick will surprise some but I’ll draw a line through that last outing as she’s definitely better than that.
Lastly as a big outsider for a very small stake, DIVINE ODYSSEY would be my lurker at any sort of price.
Thanks to Southpaw for the preview. See what he and other punters fancy on the big day in our Durban July Forum Thread and for more opinion check out Brent Graham's video interview with Jason Dedekind of Scorebet below
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