Champions’ Season gets under way!

The announcement of the first 58 entries for Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event, the R4.25-million Vodacom Durban July, heralds the start of South Africa’s Champion Season, one of the most comprehensive thoroughbred racing festivals in the world.

The action-packed three-month feast of top-class racing at Greyville and Scottsville will officially get underway with the Independent on Saturday Raceday at the Theatre Of Champions on Sunday, May 7, and carry through to the end of July with about R30-million in feature race stakes on offer for the 54 races that include 31 graded events including 13 at the highest internationally compliant Grade 1 level.

The announcement of the first big-race entries has also triggered the early outbreak of the annual phenomenon known as a July Fever, the affliction that quickly spreads around the country as enthusiasts begin searching for the potential winner and the fashion-minded seek out their designers to create their eye-catching outfits for the day.

The pundits will be hoping for early signs of potential among the three-year-olds that compete in the Daisy Guineas and Daisy Fillies Guineas, the Grade 2 events that kick off the season on May 7, and will follow their progress with others of their age that take to the stage in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and Grade 1 Woolavington 2000.

Emerging from these races could be the stars of the future that, together with top performers from the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge and Cup Trial, could take on the best in the country in the blue ribbon event on the first Saturday in July.

In between, at the end of May, the thunder of hooves will be heard at Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg when the sprinters go to battle in the four Grade 1 races over 1 200m headed by the R1-million Tsogo Sun Sprint.

Then it is the big one and some 50 000 people will flood the Greyville Racecourse for another “July Day extravaganza” and the country’s totes will be in perpetual motion as the bets on the 12-race meeting rocket up to massive levels in the region of R125-million. This will be a day of anticipation, excitement, entertainment and fashion unmatched in South Africa.

The Grade 1 Mercury Sprint will provide the excitement during the breath-catching period in mid-July before the season closes out with the recently announced Gold Cup Festival of Racing over the final weekend of July. The Champions Cup (Grade 1) will headline the 9-race programme on Saturday 29 July and the eLan Gold Cup will be featured on a 10-race programme on Sunday 30 July. The Festival will also incorporate a Gala Dinner on Thursday evening 27 July and golf-day at Royal Durban on Friday 28 July, while music and entertainment will feature prominently over the two days of quality racing.

From start to finish, it will be a rollercoaster ride of thrilling action – a festival of racing like no other in Africa. Don’t miss it!

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