2018 – A Look Back


Staying true to its long-established status as Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event in attracting the country’s best horses in all classes and one of the biggest single day crowds at a sporting event, the 122nd running of the R4.25-million Vodacom Durban July was another outstanding success.

The horses, trainers, jockeys and the general public came from all corners of the country and many others travelled to Greyville from various overseas centres for the 2 200m event that is rated among the top iconic races in the world.

And from the Western Cape came a racing team that has grown in stature to become one of the leading yards with trainer Justin Snaith being installed as the champion conditioner for the season.

From that team came five of the 18 runners that faced the starter for the famous Grade 1 event and after the dust had settled and the result was posted, Snaith runners filled the first three places and another finished fifth. It was one of the most outstanding performances by a racing stable since the legendary trainer Terrance Millard dominated the racing scene in South Africa in the 1980s.

The Snaith runners headed the betting for the Vodacom Durban July with the Dynasty gelding African Night Sky topping the boards after his impressive victory in the Cup Trial. With top former South African jockey Jeff Lloyd – now riding very successfully in Australia – aboard the other Dynasty gelding from the Snaith team, Made To Conquer, and on a mission to finally win the big race that had eluded him, the four-year-old as well as another Snaith runner, Do It Again, were also among the shorter priced runners in the race.

Overall, it looked a very open race with a number of runners having performed admirably in their build-up feature events around the country displaying talent putting them in the picture as having the ability to feature prominently in the finish.

For “the Guv”, with the race moving into its final stage, his bid for victory on Made To Conquer was looking pretty good as the field stormed down the home straight with stable companions African Night Sky, Elusive Silva and Do It Again looking dangerous along with Majestic Mambo and Rocket Countdown.

Aboard the Twice Over gelding Do It Again, jockey Anton Marcus had his eye on favourite African Night Sky at the head of the field who he assessed was over racing, as well as Made To Conquer that was staying on strongly. He made his bid on Do It Again down the centre of the track, swooping through to snatch the victory. Made to Conquer kept on taking second place ahead of Elusive Silva and Majestic Mambo with favourite African Night Sky in fifth place.

Under sunny skies it was a day of incredible excitement and the 50 000 crowd that filled the Theatre of Champions was entertained by a variety of musical and fashion events, absorbing the excitement and anticipation of the occasion with the high-class 12-race programme keeping the tote machines spinning at high speed as punters plunged expectantly into the multi-million exotic bet pools.

Building the excitement towards the big event later in the day, the Grade 3 Betting World 2200 got the feature programme underway with Keagan de Melo getting Head Honcho across the line for trainer Andre Nel. Then it was time for the big-chested stayers to take centre stage in the Grade 3 DStv Gold Vase over 3 000 and here it was the Dean Kannemeyer-trained Dynasty gelding It’s My Turn that proved too good for his opposition to take the honours.

The country’s top juveniles were the next to strut their stuff with the Captain Al filly Celtic Sea winning the Grade 2 Samsung Golden Slipper and Barahin from the powerful Mike de Kock stable taking the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe.

After its sensational victory in the Vodacom Durban July, the Snaith stable were on a high and expecting their superstar filly and short-priced favourite, Snowdance, to comfortably lift the R625 000 winner’s cheque in the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes in spite of having been touched off in the two feature events she had contested after arriving in KwaZulu-Natal.

But, as racing has proven so many times, there is no such thing as a certainty in racing and once again the beautiful daughter of Captain Al had to settle for second place when she was touched off by a whisker in the 1 600m clash by the Sean Tarry-trained Western Winter filly Redberry Lane.

As the shadows began to lengthen and the racing continued through to the evening, the many hospitality venues were in full swing with a mix of celebration and tears – depending on the fortunes of the revelers – and eventually, Vodacom Durban July 2018 came to an end marking another fitting and satisfying celebration of Africa’s greatest horseracing and social event.