12 JUNE 2017
The Vodacom Durban July picture could see dramatic changes when the big race selection panel sits down to analyse the results of Saturday’s three graded races at Greyville, changes which were clearly reflected in the odds being offered by Betting World on Sunday.
And if there is a book on which trainer will win the country’s most coveted prize, then the odds on popular Cape conditioner Brett Crawford would have shortened considerably after Captain America’s superb victory in the R1-million, Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge over 1 600m – Crawford’s third Grade 1 victory in just eight days.
Crawford won both Grade 1 events at Greyville a week previously, the R2-million Daily News 2000 and the R1-million Woolavington 2000, and after Saturday’s Rising Sun Gold Challenge victory no one would blame him if in his heart he was saying “now, bring on the July.”
The stable now has the outright 5-1 favourite, Edict Of Nantes, and Captain America whose odds were cut from 25-1 to 14-1, batting for them in the R4.25-million African racing showcase and confidence within the yard will have been given a tremendous boost after the less than inspiring performances of other contenders on Saturday.
Crawford was beaming from ear to ear in the post-race interview when recalling the way Captain America blasted away from the opposition in the home straight after sitting handy from the start but while the six-year-old son of Captain Al won with absolute authority, there could be those that feel on his record that the 2 200m trip of the July may be just a touch beyond his effective scope.
On the other hand, Crawford’s Silvano gelding Nebula, well fancied to win the Cup Trial and one of the five July hopefuls on the “looking in” list for the big race, did his chances of a July invitation no favours when finishing one from last in the Cup Trial after showing up in the leading group in the early stages.
Another happy chappie from the south, top trainer Justin Snaith, was full of praise for the win by his Silvano gelding Elusive Silva in the Grade 3 Cup Trial over 1 800m securing the four-year-old a run on the first Saturday in July. Betting World shortened his odds on their ratings from 14-1 to 15-2 third favourite below Al Sahem on an effective 11-2.
Snaith appeared more excited, however, about the performance of Black Arthur, his boom three-year-old last year that ran a good third in the Cup Trial behind Elusive Silva and pacemaker Crowd Pleaser. He claimed that on that performance, his second run after a break, “you can’t leave him out” even though he had not featured on the top 25 of the July Log a week ago.
Snaith did, however, declare that his top filly Bela-Bela, a super third in the Rising Sun, would not contest the premier event but would go for the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes where she would meet the facile winner of the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes, Just Sensual, from the Joey Ramsden yard.
That will be a decision the Selection Panel will have to make but it could be easier considering the uninspiring performances of other runners that had featured. Marinaresco, third favourite on Friday and favourite to win the Rising Sun Gold Challenge, finished nearer the tail of the field and last year’s winner, The Conglomerate, did not improve his chances of a run in finishing sixth.
Possibly the most unlucky runner in the main event was the Sean Tarry-trained Trip To Heaven. He lost the race in the objection room last year and in spite of again losing ground at the start, came from the back of the field with a blistering finish to snatch second place. As an accomplished sprinter, this was only his second race over a mile with the first being in this race last year.
Marinaresco had raced off the pace in the early stages and at the top of the straight moved out for a run but just did not quicken. His trademark brilliant finishing burst just did not take place and he plodded home in 13th place. However, it would appear that in spite of that effort the Candice Bass-Robinson-trained gelding could still have his place in the final July line-up.
The performances on Saturday of Master Sabina, French Navy, Brazuca and Saratoga Dancer will not have given the Panel much to be excited about nor did those of Master Switch and Silver Mountain.
On the other hand, however, Nightingale’s second in the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes could have been enough to convince the selectors that she deserves a place in the final field for Africa’ s Greatest Horseracing Event.
By Richard McMillan