Very few of the millions of punters around the country saw it coming – the 18-1 chance from the widest draw in the race striding through to win the R4.25-million, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July at Greyville on Saturday with most of the fancied runners failing to make it into the first six places.
The four-year-old Australian-bred gelding The Conglomerate gave Cape trainer Joey Ramsden and owners Markus and Ingrid Jooste their first win in Africa’s greatest race. For jockey Piere Strydom, it was July win number four with the first having come exactly 20 years ago when he rode London News to victory for trainer Alec Laird in 1996.
Known as “the blonde bomber”, the 50-year-old rider produced an outstanding tactical ride to get his mount across from the outside to be beautifully placed in fourth position within about 300m of the start as Dynamic set the pace ahead of stable mate It’s My Turn and Ten Gun Salute. From that position he was perfectly placed as they swung into the home straight to send the four-year-old for the finish.
The Mike Bass-trained Marinaresco put in a strong challenge in the closing stages but The Conglomerate kept on finding to win by about a neck. Mac De Lago ran a gallant race to fill third spot with It’s My Turn staying on for fourth ahead of rank outsider Saratoga Dancer and the tote favourite, Bela-Bela.
Fancied runner Solid Speed suffered a nose bleed and tailed off to finish last while the strongly fancied French Navy could not produce a strong finish in the slow-run race. Abashiri, under a big weight of 59kg, was another that made no impression in the closing stages. The pace of the race most likely put paid to the chances of a few runners with the winning time being even slower than the average time for the distance category which is calculated over all races on the Greyville turf over distances between 1 800m and 2 400m.
For Strydom, everything went according to plan and Ramsden described his performance as “an exceptional ride”.
Mike Bass, whose warm and welcoming smile is still a strong feature of this highly-respected conditioner’s character in spite of the health trauma he has experienced this year, nearly pulled off another of his great training feats when the three-year-old Marinaresco ran a close second. But he was rewarded later in the day when his star filly Inara recorded her fifth Grade 1 victory by winning the R1-million Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes.
The filly, that had never won at Greyville, has the distinction of having won Grade 1 races in three different racing centres in the country and her facile win on Saturday pushed her total earning over the R4-million mark. Her future is to be discussed with owner Gaynor Rupert of Drakenstein Stud where she was born and where she is expected to move there for stud duties in the coming breeding season.
In Saturday’s race the Dynasty filly Olma from the Frank Robinson stable ran a great second, putting in a strong finish from off the pace.
Earlier in the day, the seven-year-old Silvano gelding Punta Arenas from the Dennis Drier yard that had run second in the Vodacom Durban July last year, showed he had not lost any of his ability when running through strongly in the Delta Air Lines 2200 to catch pacemakers The Centenary and Alghadeer from the Mike de Kock stable that came close to stealing the race when they galloped well clear of the field from the start.
Under Keagan de Melo Punta Arenas produced strong finish to win going away with favourite Helderberg Blue just plodding through for fourth place.
While De Kock’s plan failed on that occasion, the stable made up for it in the 3 000m SABC Gold Vase where the Australian-bred Enaad led Smart Mart, Kingston Mines and Kinaan across the line to make it a De Kock quartet.
In the Grade 2 Gold Circle Golden Slipper the hot favourite Maleficent failed to produce her expected performance as the Glen Kotzen-trained Judpot filly Final Judgement at 14-1 had the final word with an impressive win over outsider Dawn Calling with Sail and Visuality filling the minor placings.
The Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe saw the fancied runners beaten again when the 7-1 chance Zodiac Ruler from the Justin Snaith stable thrashed the opposition to retain his unbeaten record. Misty Birnam, Gunnar and Palladin filled the minor placings but Zodiac Ruler signalled that he is a serious racehorse and will be one to follow in the future.