The thrill of Africa’s greatest racing event, the Vodacom Durban July, at Hollywoodbets Greyville in Durban last Saturday is over for this year but racing enthusiasts have another equally exciting feast of racing to look forward to at the end of the month with the country’s premier race for speedsters, the R1-million, Grade 1 Mercury Sprint, being one of the main graded races on Champions Day at the Theatre of Champions on July 27.
The meeting, also featuring the R1-million, Grade 1 World Sports Betting Champions Cup and the R1.25-million, Grade 3 eLAN Gold Cup, brings the curtain down on South Africa’s world-renowned three-month Champion’s Season and attracts thousands to the Durban venue where eight highly important graded races will take place on the 12-race card.
The Mercury Sprint, the longest running media-sponsored race in the country, is South Africa’s premier race for sprinters with the country’s fastest horses clashing over 1 200m under weight-for-age conditions which for the purists determines the real champion sprinter of the land. The result is likely to determine South Africa’s Champion Sprinter of the Year at the annual Equus Awards in August.
This year 27 horses have been nominated for the Mercury Sprint including the winners of three of the country’s top sprint races – the Grade 1 Cape Flying Champions, the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint and the Grade 1 South African Fillies Sprint.
For the first time in many years a two-year-old colt has been nominated to take on the older and stronger horses. Frosted Gold, from the Mike de Kock stable, is a New Zealand-bred son of All Too Hard that won the SA Nursery at Turffontein then ran second to the unbeaten Var colt Eden Roc in the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion at Scottsville. Eden Roc followed that up on Saturday when he won the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe over 1 400m on July Day being the exotic bet banker for most punters. The Sean Tarry-trained colt has been entered for the R750 000, Grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes over 1 600m.
Among the 27 entries for the Mercury Sprint are the SA Fillies Sprint winner Celtic Sea that on Saturday beat Oh Susanna and Snowdance in the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes over a mile and the winner of both the Cape Flying Championships and the Diadem Stakes Kasimir. The winner of the Tsogo Sun Sprint, Chimichuri Run, is among the entries as is Snowdance that was second to Celtic Sea in the Scottsville Grade 1 for fillies and mares.
As the grand finale to Champions Season, eLan Gold Cup day is the second biggest meeting in the country and the Mercury Sprint is a leading feature on the day.
By Richard McMillan