Mike de Kock pretty well summed up this year’s Vodacom Durban July as probably the toughest he has seen and he’s been around a few years.
The four-time winning trainer said mid-week. “Barring Soqrat, all the best horses in the country are there.” The race will be run over 2200m at Hollywoodbets Greyville tomorrow.
He also had a little dig at the jockeys who he says will dictate the tempo of the race. Speaking to TABnews he said, “What has happened previously in the race is that many of them are duped into following the leader rather than judging the pace they need for their own mounts.”
“I think whoever sizes it up properly early on, who gets his horse into a good position, will have the advantage. The race can be won and lost over the first 200m.”
Justin Snaith, who saddled the first three past the post last year, saddles last year’s winner Do It Again. Although Do It Again shoulders top weight his form is impeccable and from a good draw he should be right there. His was one of the stand-out gallops last week and is obviously in a good space. He is second favourite in the ante-post betting and Snaith is supremely confident.
De Kock saddles two runners, ruling ante-post favourite Hawwaam and Barahin. The latter is off the minimum mark for a three-year-old colt and is probably still under the radar as far as the handicappers are concerned. He came from a long way back to win the recent Jubilee Handicap and he has won at Greyville. “Barahin is a one-dimensional horse,” De Kock surmised. “He’ll relax near the back of the field and run on late.”
Hawwaam on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. He is all the rage in the market and beaten only once in his career. However, De Kock was sceptical of his short ante-post price. “18-10, you must be joking,” he said on Tuesday. “That’s just hype.”
“Hawwaam is not straightforward. You don’t know what he’s going to do – whether he will jump slowly, or whether he will pull. This is also the first time he is running in an 18-horse field so we don’t know how he will cope.”
There is no doubt that he is a top contender and is well in at the weights with a good draw. But as De Kock alluded, his one concern is his temperament. He can be difficult in the preliminaries and a big crowd could upset him. He also has an inside draw in what is invariably a rough race which could set him off. That said, he was perfectly behaved when winning the Daily News 2000.
Eric Sands has given Rainbow Bridge the perfect preparation and this race has been his target since the day he was bought by Mike Rattray after the winning the Sun Met. He has done everything right for Sands and a win will not be out of turn.
Made To Conquer, another Snaith runner, was second last year and carries the same weight this year. He been catching the eye of late and big race rider Mark Khan is confident of a big showing. “He will be spot on for the July,” Khan told Snaith in the fourth box after the Cup Trial.
Glen Kotzen appears to have got on top of all the problems that he had with Eyes Wide Open and the colt has come to hand of late. He beat Do It Again in the Cape Derby last season at level weights and is now 7kg better off. But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since their meeting in the Derby.
Lady In Black is a smart filly and Dennis Drier is supremely confident that she will run a big race. “I’m not sure if she can beat the boys but she will be right there,” he said at the gallops. “She’s been crying out for this trip.”
Twist Of Fate was runner-up to Hawaamm in the KRA Guineas and is now 2kg better off with the ruling favourite. Joey Ramsden won this race with The Conglomerate from 20 draw so knows what it takes to win this race.
For my money the bulk of the quartet – that will have a total pool in the region of R16 million – will come from the top seven in the betting with longer priced runners Head Honcho, Lady In Black, Legal Eagle, Made To Conquer and Doublemint all horses capable of a first four finish.
By Andrew Harrison