Heavy Metal and S’manga Khumalo clinch it
In true “July Day” tradition, Africa’s greatest horseracing spectacle once again proved to be a magical experience with a capacity crowd of 55 000 cramming the Greyville course in Durban to witness another epic clash in the country’s most famous race, the R3.5-million, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July.
Not even a soggy and muddy outfield from overnight rain with the possibility of more to come could dampen the spirits of those stricken by July fever and the crowds streamed in from all parts of the country and from overseas. The fleshy displays of frills and folds, exotic headgear and dazzling colours adorned the long-legged models in the on-course fashion parade that traditionally sets the scene for this annual racing and entertainment extravaganza.
As a precaution to protect the hallowed turf on which the “big one” would be run late in the afternoon, the first two races on the card were abandoned. But when the action began it went straight into top gear with race after race, interspersed with a variety of entertainment, keeping the masses enthralled into the early evening and then partying into the night.
The “July magic” was palpable from the start but no stronger than when the 20 gladiators strode out confidently to the 2 200m starting position on the back straight for the country’s premier event. There was the customary deathly silence as the field was loaded and then the mighty roar as the bell rang and the Vodacom Durban July 2013 was underway.
There was the usual hustle and bustle as the runners fought for position in the run down to the Drill Hall with lightly-weighted, front-running Summer Cup winner Wagner leading the charge with E-Jet keeping him company. The field settled into its rhythm as riders gathered their thoughts and prepared for the final dash for the line when they swung into the home straight and headed for the judge.
Run For It, Jet Explorer, Do You Remember, Heavy Metal and No Worries had tracked the leaders along the rail as the race progressed and it was Anthony Delpech who kicked Jet Explorer into the lead coming off the false rail. The previous year’s winner Pomodoro, along with Shogunner, Punta Arenas and Wylie Hall were all in contention along with Run For It, the only filly in the race Do You Remember and Heavy Metal in the initial charge to the line – it looked wide open.
Jet Explorer made a gallant bid to retain his lead but could not hold off the fast-finishing trio of Run For It, Heavy Metal and Do You Remember and they were left to fight the final battle to the line where it was Heavy Metal who prevailed by a neck from Run For It with the filly a long head back in third place.
It was an historical moment in South African racing history as S’Manga Khumalo became the first black rider to win the Vodacom Durban July with Heavy Metal’s owner Chris van Niekerk and trainer Sean Tarry scoring a July “double” having won the race the previous year with Pomodoro. Khumalo had earlier won the Grade 1 Zulu Kingdom Explorer Golden Slipper for the Van Niekerk-Tarry team that had, prior to that, won the Grade 2 Mercedes-Benz Gold Vase with Kolkata ridden by Piere Strydom.
The Grade 1 Durban Golden Horseshoe was won by the Alec Laird-trained Judpot colt Forest Indigo with Beach Beauty from the Dennis Drier stable pulverising her opposition in the Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes to complete the Grade 1 programme for the day.