For the second year in a row the Vodacom Durban July will be run behind-closed-doors at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse on Saturday afternoon, but the looming clashing of the thoroughbred titans over 2 200 metres has created an unprecedented amount of global interest in the race.

With one of the most competitive fields in decades, history beckons for a number of icons of the sport entered for the main race that gets under way at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.

The Justin Snaith-trained defending champion Belgarion will start eyeing a rare back-to-back victory in the Vodacom Durban July, and if he passes the winning post first he will be only the sixth horse to win the race twice and the fifth to win it two years in succession.

Belgarion’s stablemate Do It Again is well poised to live up to his name, having won the race twice before, in 2018 and 2019, and should he add the 2021 crown to his impressive list of achievements he will be the first horse in history to win the July three times.

Do It Again and Charné Charlton, wearing a Kathrin Kidger gown. Hair:Entropy. Model Extreme Model Management

He will be ridden by ace jockey Richard Fourie, who will become the first jockey to win a hat-trick of Vodacom Durban Julys, having won on Do It Again in 2019 and Belgarion last year.

If he wins it will take him to four July wins in total, along with joining Piere Strydom, Anthony Delpech and Harold “Tiger” Wright, and one short of the all-time mark held by the legendary Anton Marcus.

Justin Snaith has four runners in the eighteen-strong field, and if any of them comes home to win the Vodacom Durban July he will become the first trainer in 108 years to win the race four times in succession, joining Fred Murray as the only trainer to have achieved this feat. Murray trained and owned every winner from 1910 to 1913.

If Snaith succeeds on Saturday afternoon it will take his total tally of Vodacom Durban July victories to six, and just one shy of the record held by Hall Of Fame trainer Syd Laird and equal with the legendary Terrance Millard.

For the local racing fans there are three KwaZulu-Natal trained runners in the race – She’s A Keeper, Matterhorn and Tristful, vying to become the first locally trained winner of the race since the Dennis Drier-trained Spanish Galliard in 1992. Cape-trained horses have managed to win the Vodacom Durban July every year since the 2014 inaugural running on the new narrower track.

The widely fancied Rainbow Bridge, trained by Eric Sands can become the first top weight to win the Vodacom Durban July since Do It Again triumphed in 2019. Should Rainbow Bridge be led into the winners enclosure on Saturday afternoon, his jockey Luke Ferraris will become the first teenager to win the race for 52 years, Alan “Snowy” Reid being the last to have done it on Naval Escort in 1969.

Also enjoying support from the punters is Got The Greenlight who will be attempting to overcome the longest layoff for a winner for 87 years. No winner since Sun Tor in 1934, who came off a 161 day layoff, has come off as long a layoff as Got The Greenlight’s, which will be 63 days by July 3.

Another milestone will be set alongside the track where the evergreen photographer Anita Akal will be photographing the big race for the fiftieth time.

Across the country the race is providing a beacon of hope and excitement to a nation in the grips of the adjusted level 4 lockdown, and Vodacom Durban July parties are being planned in lounges, observing all the expectations of social distancing, complete with fashionable outfits based on the raceday theme “Birds of a Feather”, and all the lavish catering and hospitality associated with Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event.