The 120th running of the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday afternoon will see the eyes of the racing world focussed on Greyville Racecourse as eighteen thoroughbreds do battle for the ultimate honours at Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event in front of a capacity crowd of punters and socialites.
The race for the title promises to be one of the closest in many years, with punters supporting the seasoned, Sean Tarry trained four year-old, French Navy, the Dean Kannemeyer trained son of the legendary Dynasty, Solid Speed and the grey filly, Bela-Bela trained by double Vodacom Durban July winner, Justin Snaith.
Meanwhile the feature race will see two legends of South African horseracing lining up alongside one another targeting the same record, as iconic jockeys Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus eye the prospect of becoming the first jockey to win five Vodacom Durban July titles.
The race will be a huge moment for teenage apprentice jockey, Lyle Hewitson who has been given a huge vote of confidence by Snaith who has entrusted him with the reins of Dynamic in the main race.
The former Kearsney College youngster will make his Vodacom Durban July debut in the charged atmosphere at Greyville Racecourse in a race that has a multitude of emotional layers to it.
Race Two on the programme has been named after another Vodacom Durban July legend Sea Cottage, commemorating fifty years since the dramatic tale of Sea Cottage being shot three weeks before the 1966 July, and then going on to win the race in the famous dead-heat in 1967 with Jollify.
The raceday is a turnkey event of the regional tourism industry and injects around R450 million into the local economy as raceday fans flood into the city for the big occasion, with more than half of the spectators at Greyville Racecourse travelling in from Gauteng for the iconic social and sporting event.
The lavishly decorated suites and m arquees will host the whose-who of South African social life, with A-list celebs, sport stars, movie stars, and musicians mingling with captains of industry in the premium hospitality venues.
The theme for this year’s Vodacom Durban July, “Leader Of The Pack” will govern the decor in the suites and Marquee Village as well as the fashion that is synonymous with the 120 year-old event.
In between the twelve-race programme, the finalists of the raceday competitions for the Best Dressed Male and Female, Best Dressed Couple and Exceptional Raceday Hat or Fascinator will be paraded on the Action Stage, before the winners are announced.
A little earlier in the day the long awaited announcement of the winners of the pre-raceday Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award and Fashion Challenge competitions, presented by Durban Fashion Fair, will be made, lifting the lid on the decision taken by a high-powered panel of judges at the last Fashion Experience show two weeks ago.
With another sell-out crowd expected, event and city authorities will be out in force to ensure the smooth and secure running of the event, with 72 Metro police staffers deployed to manage the traffic on the day.
Many punters will take advantage of the popular Park and Ride option that offers secure parking at Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World and frequent bus shuttles to and from Greyville Racecourse. This option has moved from its old base at the Durban Drive-In site to Suncoast Casino’s Northern parking area.
Once the racing programme has been completed under floodlights, most raceday fans will move on the many after parties being hosted in the city, with popular venues such as Max’s Lifestyle and Eyadini Lounge in Umlazi and the Artizen Lounge in KwaMashu sure to do a brisk trade.
The city will also host two massive music events in the neighbourhood of Greyville Racecourse, with Fact Durban Rocks at the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Mother of all Parties at nearby Growthpoint Kings Park Stadium, with US star Chris Brown headlining that bill.