Vodacom Durban July fever is building and with just 18 days until the big race the general public will be attempting to either match their dreams to the names of July runners or match the latter to current events, writes David Thistleton.
One old July myth is that a good sardine run leads to the favourite winning. Do It Again is likely the most topical name in the field as he will be attempting to “do it again” by winning the race for a history-making third time in succession.
This year sees the 50th anniversary of the July being run over the distance of 2200m and as a 50th anniversary is called a “golden anniversary” the mare Miyabi Gold and the three-year-old gelding Golden Ducat fit that bill. It is the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke Of Edinburgh visiting the Greyville racecourse and names which relate to royalty among the entries are the fancied Belgarion, who is a mythical king, and Sovereign Spirit and Crown Towers, both of whom are unlikely to make the final field.
A 25th anniversary is known as a “silver anniversary” so Bunker Hunt is the most appropriate horse relating to the royal visit. Nelson Bunker Hunt and his brothers attempted to corner the world’s silver market in the 1970s and had nearly done so by 1980 before government intervention saw their empire collapsing.
Got The Greenlight could be a topical name at a stretch as many businesses await the government greenlight to reopen. Tristful means sad and this year’s July being run behind closed doors will be a sad reality. A pandemic that can be matched to the COVID-19 was the Spanish flu which raged about 100 years ago between 1918 and 1920 and a hero of that time was Padre Pio, who due to a shortage of doctors used to administer vaccines himself and it might have been the reason he contracted the deadly disease himself although he did survive it.
Padre Pio is currently twelfth on the July log. In 1520, exactly 500 years ago, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed past an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland and saw many fires flicking in the darkness. He thus called it Tierra Del Fuego (“land of fire”). Tierra Del Fuego was 15th on the last July log.
There have been many topical winners of the July and three examples are described below. In June 1960 the Springboks beat the All Blacks by 13-0 and both tries were scored by the left wing, Hennie van Zyl, who wore jersey no. 13. A week later the July was won by a horse called Left Wing who carried saddle cloth no 13, so it has ever since been known as “The Rugby July.” In 1981, shortly before the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Dianne Spencer, the July was won by a horse called Big Charles.
In 2004 the number ten horse Greys Inn carried the South African flag on his saddle cloth to symbolize ten years of democracy, he duly won the race. If you have any topical anecdotes matching a name, please let us know. No race is over until the fat lady sings and we need all the help we can possibly get!