One of the big questions of this year’s Vodacom Durban July is ‘How good is She’s A Keeper?’, who provides a first July runner for young Summerveld trainer Gareth van Zyl
The four-year-old Gimmethegreenlight filly is officially the lowest merit rated runner in the race but that is only due to South Africa’s unique hotchpotch of handicapping guidelines and restrictions together with an obsession with line horses, all of which tie the hands of the handicappers, who are then criticised mercilessly for the imbalance in the horse populations merit ratings.
She’s A Keeper has thus been given easy weight carrying tasks to date.
In her last two starts she has won the Listed WSB Scarlet Lady over 1750m by 2,10 lengths carrying just 54kg and the Grade 2 WSB 1900 by 0,90 lengths carrying just 50kg.
On paper she has a tough task in the July with the WSB 1900 runner up Matterhorn as she is now 3kg worse off.
However, she won both of those last two races without coming under serious pressure and she also tends to take her foot off the pedal and run around a bit after hitting the front.
So, the question is how much extra did she actually have when winning those two races, if she had any at all?
Van Zyl admitted he did not yet know how good she was himself and said, “We have made some calculated guesses and although a lot of times we overrate our horses and are let down we get it right every now and then and we are optimistic that she is a proper Group 1 horse.”
Van Zyl won KZN’s second most famous race (from a traditional point of view) last year, the WSB Gold Cup, so has the wherewithall to present a horse in tip top condition for a big race.
Asked whether having a first July runner was nerve-wracking he replied, “It is not so much the nerves, it is very exciting, but it is also just wishing the day would arrive as she is so well at the moment. We just hope things can keep going well.”
She impressed at the official July gallops and Van Zyl said, “We were very happy with the gallop. We did not ask her to set the track alight but it was the way she went about her business. The most important thing was she came out of the gallop better than she went in so it was an important stepping stone into the race.”
He was asked about the draw of ten and replied, “It is perfect. She jumped from a similar draw in the 1900. She likes to be given a bit of a chance.”
He is also pleased to have reigning national champion jockey Warren Kennedy up and said, “Warren is unbeaten on her. He knows her well and knows Greyville well so having him aboard is a big advantage.”
The yard also have some other runners with chances on the day, although one of their main hopes, Gallic Chief, who runs in the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe over 1400m, has unfortunately drawn wide in 14 in a 15 horse field.
The two-year-old Vercingetorix gelding won his maiden over 1100m by 4,50 lengths and then finished a 2,30 length third after going to the front in the Grade 1 Gold Medallion over 1200m.
Van Zyl said, “The draw was a big pity. He shows natural speed but everything else points to him looking for even further than this trip. We will likely have to try and slot him in because he has exceptional gate-speed, so dropping him out is unlikely.”
He has the advantage of the in-form twice national champion jockey S’Manga Khumalo aboard.
Van Zyl also has a runner in the fillies two-year-old feature, the Grade 2 Zulu Kingdom Explorer Golden Slipper over 1400m.
He said about this Elusive Fort filly, Finding Freedom, “She impressed us in the Devon Air as she was quite green and she has a lot of natural improvement to come. We can always revert to the maidens if it is a step too far, so we are giving it a go.”
He runs last year’s Gold Cup winner Paths Of Victory in the Grade 3 DSTV Gold Vase over 3000m and said, “He is showing signs of returning to himself but we need to see it in the race because he hasn’t bounced back to that Gold Cup form yet. He is certainly not flat, he is full of energy and enjoying his work, so is ready to do his best.”
He runs Chantyman in the Grade 2 Post Merchants over 1200m. This six-year-old Oratorio gelding won his maiden over this trip back in 2017 by 7,50 lengths at Hollywoodbets Scottsville but has chiefly been kept to 1000m since. However, Van Zyl is not concerned about the trip and said, “The way he has been running I think he will get the 1200. He is doing well and is ready to run a big race from a good draw, he is going to be competitive there.”
Warren Kennedy rides Finding Freedom and Paths To Victory and Luke Ferraris will ride Chantyman.