The Vodacom Durban July is as open as ever this year and punters who can get through the Pick 6 with a narrow selection will be doing well and catching the quartet will be lucrative.
The Pick 6 pool is estimated to be R13 million plus while the estimated quartet pool is R16 million.
The Johannesburg three-year-olds have proven themselves to be top class.
Therefore the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 might be the most reliable form leading into the July.
Majestic Mambo has an exceptional turn of foot and has proved he can come from last. He overtook some of the other July three-year-olds in the Daily News despite the pace not having been fast.
Do It Again finished half-a-length behind Majestic Mambo in the Daily News and they face each other on the same terms. However, this Twice Over gelding looked a touch flat that day whereas he looked very bright at the July Gallops. He is drawn wide but will at least avoid the usual scrimmaging on the inside and four-time July-winning rider Anton Marcus is aboard.
White River was a touch unlucky in the Daily News as he checked off the heels of another horse when the pace slowed down. He stayed on well from a handy position to be just two lengths behind Majestic Mambo. This difficult customer has shown improvement with gelding in work and now has his second run since that operation. He looked good at the gallops and jumps from draw 12.
Thre-year-old Yakeen over raced in the early stages of the Jubilee but still stayed on to win. However, that antic does not augur well for his chances over 400m further, unless he settles better from a nice draw of six. The form of the Jubilee took a dent when third-placed Arctica was beaten in a Pinnacle event over 1600m last Sunday despite being well weighted. Yakeen is also officially 2,5kg under sufferance so has a tough task.
Three-year-old Rocket Countdown is officially 3kg under sufferance but beat White River and Do It Again in the Selangor over 1600m and is coming off a narrow loss to a highly regarded sort in Rainbow Bridge over 1800m in the Winter Classic. This good looking sort should be staying on well and is an upset possibility.
The favourite African Night Sky ran to about a 122 rating in the Sun Met, so running off a 112 rating here is theoretically 5kg well in. He scythed through the field effortlessly last time over 1800m in the Cup Trial and although that was a much weaker field it completed a fine preparation.
Matador Man will be suited to a slow pace as one who has a slight stamina doubt. He will likely be at the back as he usually starts slowly. He loves Greyville and if he stays he will be finishing strongly as he has a fine turn of foot.
Dark Moon Rising is crying out for this trip and did well to finish second in the WSB 1900 behind a slow pace. He is officially 1,5kg under sufferance but is improving as Ideal Worlds tend to do, and will be staying on strongly, so has a shout from a low draw with a light weight.
Coral Fever often flies under the radar but always pops up and has earned topweight. He is one of the class horses and will be running on, although one concern is whether he can turn it on quickly enough on this tight track.
Made To Conquer is an ever improving sort who has a laid back temperament, will stay the trip and showed in the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup he has a good turn of foot. That last race was over 2400m and he was running off just a 94 merit rating so this is a lot tougher, but he has the fine rider of Greyville Jeff Lloyd aboard and this classy sort has a definite shout.
Elusive Silva has won three from five starts at Greyville, has an electric turn of foot and has proved he stays the trip. However, he has had soundness issues. His rider Bernard Fayd’Herbe has won two Julys, although he has a tough task slimming down to make the 56,5kg weight.
Tilbury Fort has improved with gelding and ran on well in the Jubilee. Lyle Hewitson will help him overcome a wide draw, but he will have to show further improvement.
The Silvano filly Star Express will love this trip on pedigree. She has never really fulfilled her potential and comes in off a fine preparation so is one of the dark horses.
Liege has a chance if reproducing his Summer Cup run as he showed a good kick that day from a handy position but he has not had the ideal preparation.
Secret Potion is a long-striding sort who can run on over a trip she will enjoy but she has a tough task at the weights and might prefer a more galloping track.
The big question is where the pace will come from, which is why three horses have been left for last in this analysis.
Gold Standard’s probable best performance was when sitting in second place behind Captain America in last year’s Sun Met so he will likely want to be handy and could end up a reluctant leader. If another horse gives him a lead and he bounces back to his best, he has a chance.
Fiorella is another possible pacemaker. She looks to be a galloping type so being handy or leading will likely be her best chance. The bare form of the Woolavington gives her a big shout, but the winner Oh Susanna was likely below her best that day.
Piere Strydom won the July in 2012 by going handy from a wide draw on Pomodoro and in 2016 did similar when winning aboard The Conglomerate. His mount this year Abashiri lacks early pace but considering the race’s lack of pace Strydom might take the bull by horns and chase him up along the rail from pole position. Wherever the big Go Deputy gelding is in the running he will likely stay on as he has proven he stays this trip with ease.
It is wide open July and should be a thriller.