Deacon recalls Big City Life’s July win

PUBLISHED: 25 June 2019

Raymond Deacon (John Lewis)

One of racing’s great characters Raymond Deacon recalled yesterday the moment ten years ago he believed his Glen Kotzen-trained horse Big City Life was going to win the Vodacom Durban July and described a feeling of being in a dream bubble as he charged like a rugby player through a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd for the winner’s enclosure.

His wife Paula turned to daughter Lois and said, “What’s Dad doing, what’s happening?!”

Lois replied, “I think we’ve just won the July!”

Big City life had come into the July off the back of victories in the KRA Guineas and the Daily News 2000, having also won the Investec Cape Derby on J&B Met day.

Raymond described the build-up of “unbelievable pressure” as a seemingly unattainable dream came within grasping distance.

He recalled, “It suddenly all gets released, I can’t think of a better drug, it is just an amazing release of joy. It is probably why we still do our pensions on this game. I could hardly see the horses through the crowd as they went past, but earlier when he hit the front I felt almost as if the script had already been written and there was no way he could lose. I have never had a feeling like it. It all happened in slow motion, I can’t remember any noise, it was like being in a dream where you knew the end result.”  

Raymond Deacon (John Lewis)

Raymond always watches races at Greyville from the bottom step of the grandstand opposite the finish line as this was where his late father Maynard watched from.    

He reckoned he reached the short distance to the winner’s enclosure almost before Big City Life had crossed the line and was thankful Gold Circle’s media relations manager Gill Mostert (nee Simpkins) was on hand to tell some irate members of the public he had just won the July. Their irritation turned to cheers and they helped him over the winner’s enclosure railings.  

Raymond said, “I would have looked a right royal idiot if he had not won, we often joke about it, although I would also have been happy with second.”

The memory of the victory is ever present in the Deacon home through a painting and all sorts of memorabilia.

Raymond said, “The only thing I haven’t got from that day is my phone!”

He lost his cellphone during the mayhem that followed the win so was unable to field the myriad of congratulatory messages.

One thing which struck Raymond later was, for the only time in his on-course ownership career, he did not lead his winner in.

He recalled, “I was too busy hugging Frikkie (Greyling – assistant trainer at the time to Glen Kotzen) and the groom.”

Upon receiving the winner’s sash Raymond entertained the crowd with an impromptu dance.

He said, “I don’t even remember doing it but ha