Dunford’s win overshadowed by Rabiya tragedy
The Vodacom Durban July meeting of 2005, with record turnovers and the need to close the gates midway through the afternoon as about 56 000 people poured into the course, was an outstanding success. But it was also a meeting filled with sadness at the tragic loss of the country’s top three-year-old and big race favourite, Rabiya.

The three-year-old colt was euthanased after breaking a leg at the 1 600-metre mark. The tragedy shook the large crowd but, as in all great events, the show had to continue and continue it did to great effect.

2005DunfordGold Circle CEO, Michel Nairac, was elated with the success of the meeting. The large crowd was treated to spectacle after spectacle – if it wasn’t top class racing, it was great entertainment from the Action Stage.

The crowd had swelled to capacity just before the main race and it was at this point that a decision was taken by the disaster management team to close the gates. Besides the complimentary and badge holder numbers, the 28 500 saleable tickets that had been printed were sold out.

“As far as disaster management were concerned, it was not that the numbers became dangerous but they felt that because we had not provided more tickets to sell we had better close our doors,” he said.

He described the increase in turnover on the day as “phenomenal”. “We have done R40-million on the Greyville meeting alone which is something exceptional. Without the help of sponsors like Vodacom we could never have achieved this.”

On the Greyville meeting Saftote turnover increased from R53.3-million to R61.3 and turnover on the Vodacom Durban July race alone was up by 20% from R21.8-million the year before to R26.3-million.

Nationally, the Saftote turnover on the day, on the meeting at Greyville and that at Turffontein, was R71.2 million which was up from R61.8-million in 2004.

Mr. Nairac said the Pick 6 pool of just over R6-million on the day was the biggest ever in the country. The telephone betting centre at Greyville had been under enormous pressure but had handled it well with only 160 calls not being attended to in a total of 50 000 on the day.

For Cape trainer Mike Bass it was a meeting that dreams are made of with the 20-1 outsider, Dunford, being the third of his four winners on the day. Dunford’s win in the R2-million, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July was the third success in the country’s premier event for Marcus who had won it before on Dancing Duel in 1993 and El Picha in 2000. It was the second for Mike Bass who won it with Trademark in 2001.

Bass started his winning streak in the first race when his Goldmark gelding, Laredo Gold, won at 7-1. His 50-1 outsider, Diamond Quest, then caused a major upset in the first leg of the Place Accumulator when he won beating second favourite Maison De Paris. The July success was his next visit to the winner’s enclosure and later in the evening, his Elliodor filly, Traviata, won the 11th race on the card.

The R2-million spectacle saw just 18 runners go to post after the scratching of Arabian Glow and Pavlovich with Dean Kannemeyer’s Jallad colt, Rabiya, the outright favourite at 28-10. Having won the Argus Guineas, the Cape Of Good Hope Derby and the Daily News 2200 on his path to the Vodacom Durban July, Rabiya was a worthy favourite. Second favourite was Geoff Woodruff’s Fort Wood gelding Dunsinane who, as fate would have it, finished near last after being injured in the race.

The massive crowd that packed Greyville was stunned, first when Rabiya was slow away from the start leaving him at the back of the field, then when he failed to emerge from behind the Drill Hall. Night Watch was heading the charge from Silverpoint and Grey Arrow as they headed for the home straight. When Night Watch began to tire in the straight, Silverpoint under Anthony Delpech took over the lead with Reveille Boy, Grey Arrow, Irridescence, Winter Solstice and Tyson all looking dangerous. But it was Dunford who swept through from behind them to overhaul Silverpoint and beat the Ormond Ferraris runner by half a length. Eventuail ran on strongly from near last to take third place ahead of Reveille Boy who kept on well for fourth.