Justin Snaith landed his fifth Vodacom Durban July and Richard Fourie his third at Hollywoodbets Greyville as Belgarion fended off the country’s top three-year-old Got The Greenlight to win in the fastest time since the track was narrowed in 2014.
Belgarion’s record-seeking stablemate Do It Again finished third, the highest finish of the five horses in history who have attempted three wins in the big race.
Snaith is the ultimate professional and his stable jockey Fourie would have known that Belgarion’s stablemate Silvano’s Pride, who was the expected pacemaker, was going to go like the clappers in front.
Belgarion’s wide draw of 17 was thus easily nullified by the horse simply being dropped out.
The pace was also fast enough for him to use his big stride.
However, the connections of the favourite Rainbow Bridge had to guess how quick it was going to be up front and their decision to go handy from a low draw did them no favours in retrospect.
Rainbow Bridge found himself in front in the straight way too soon after Silvano’s Pride and second-in-the-running Twist Of Fate had understandably fallen away after some of the quickest fractions set in July history.
Statistician Jay August measured Silvano’s Pride going through the first 1200m in a tearaway 69.4 seconds and the group behind her, which included Rainbow Bridge, went through in 70.6 seconds, which is the fastest July so far at that point for the chasing pack.
Handicapping pundits were proved correct by Belgarion’s win. A condition of the WSB 1900 limited the raise he was allowed to be given for winning that race to six points. The handicappers thus had to give him a 119 merit rating despite having analyzed him to have run to a 122.
He thus carried 1kg less than he would have and on paper that was the difference between victory and a head defeat by the runner up Got The Greenlight.
The three-year-olds defied a number of pundits who had written them off.
Got The Greenlight was running 3kg under sufferance on official merit ratings but there were a few who still fancied him as he was a three time Grade 1 winner whose running style suggested he only did enough to win.
However, the fourth place finish of the Grade 1 Cape Derby winner Golden Ducat, who was 4,5kg under sufferance, suggested the crop might be a tad better than had been thought.
Snaith is just two July wins behind the record of seven set by the legendary Syd Laird and as a relatively young man he has plenty of time to surpass it.
It was a deserved win for owners Alec and the Honourable Gillian Foster. The former had a fine sporting day as his beloved England cricket team were not in a strong position at the beginning of the day against the West Indies but by stumps were in command.
Belgarion was bred by Alec too.
Silvano’s Pride was chased to the front from the off and soon had a big lead.
The field were stretched out in the running.
The favourite Rainbow Bridge was in a handy position, while Do It Again was in the back half and was being trailed by Got The Greenlight who in turn was being followed by Belgarion.
The latter must have been about 20 lengths off the leader at the halfway mark.
Owner and breeding doyen Mike Rattray has dreamed of winning the July his whole life and half way down the straight he must have been willing the line closer as his red and white colours were lying first and second, Rainbow Bridge in front and Golden Ducat on his quarter.
However, the Do It Again treble dream then began to look more likely as he moved up dangerously.
The latter possibility was short-lived though because it became clear that the pair on the outside, Belgarion and Got The Greenlight were going best of all.
Belgarion won full of running by 0,90 lengths in a time of 132,4 seconds, the fourth fastest time since the distance was upped to 2200m in 1970.
The Joey Soma-trained Got The Greenlight stayed on well to beat Do It Again by a head.
The latter was a length clear of the Eric Sands-trained Golden Ducat, who just held on to fourth by a short head from the gallant seven-year-old, the Dean Kannemeyer-trained It’s My Turn. The latter finished fourth in the July as a three-year-old.
Golden Ducat’s stable mate Rainbow Bridge, who was last year’s runner up, finished a disappointing sixth, 0,80 lengths behind It’s My Turn.