We have arrived at the business end of the season, writes Gary Lemke for GGGaming.bet . Although the Cape has the Cape Town Met as its highlight, and Gauteng has the Summer Cup, it is the Vodacom Durban July which is the real jewel in the racing crown.
Although we are in the dying embers of May, the “July” looms large on 3 July at Greyville. And, as always, the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 to be run on Saturday at Greyville is a big pointer towards the main event.
There has only been one winner of the July itself by a three-year-old in the last eight years – Do It Again in 2018 – but that has a lot to do with the weights allocated in the race and last year there were two youngsters in the first four, Got The Greenlight and Golden Ducat.
However, master trainer Justin Snaith, who has won the last three Julys in succession and has four July wins since 2014, said before the Cape season that his three-year-old crop was the strongest he’d ever had. And more recently he felt that the result of Saturday’s Daily News 2000 could play a major part in deciding the winner for this year’s July.
Snaith himself only has The Gatekeeper in Saturday’s race. He hasn’t lived up to Snaith’s lofty predictions of him, so far, although it would be unwise to write him off here despite being well beaten by the Daily News favourite, Linebacker, in his last two starts.
The Gatekeeper has only won twice in eight starts and on that basis looks high in the merit ratings at 110, but then again the handicappers have given most of the top three-year-olds this year big merit ratings.
Linebacker, from the Vaughan Marshall yard, is rated 124 and it's the 18-10 favourite for the Daily News 2000. He’s all class and has never been out the first two in seven starts and he followed up his Cape Derby win with victory in. the KZN Guineas last time.
His market rival is Kommetdieding, which has tested the Afrikaans vocabulary of some commentators in his career so far, but he won four in a row in the Cape in the style of a champion and finished third in his KZN debut, behind Linebacker, although was severely hampered around the bed in that race and actually did well to run on into the placings. As did Russian Rock, the Cape Guineas winner.
It’s really an intriguing race, with the field of 12 all at level weights of 60kg. Whoever wins will have the bookies tweaking their Vodacom July odds in the aftermath. Linebacker is currently second favourite at 5-1 for the July and should he win this weekend, he’d probably join Got The Greenlight as favourite, as would Kommetdieding. Which shows the strength and reputation of the three-year-olds this season.
The elephant in the room is the booking of regular jockey Sihle Cele for second favourite Kommetdieding. He’s surrounded by the best jockeys in the business and is again drawn out wide at No8, which is where he found trouble in the KZN Guineas. On his immediate inside is reigning SA champion Warren Kennedy and on his outside is Richard Fourie. Cele’s riding will be as scrutinised as that of the performance of the horse under him.
The other Grade One race on the card is the 2000m Woolavington Cup where War Of Athena and eight time winner and unbeaten in her last five – is odds-on at 9-10, with market rival Princess Calla at 18-10 and Netta at 4-1. My only doubt about War Of Athena is that she’s had quite a hard season, but this is a small field and she's all class and meets her rivals at level weights.
She will be a popular banker in the exotics, where big pools are expected given the meeting is being co-mingled with the Hong Kong tote.
Bass Racing look to have a profitable weekend, with three strong chances at Fairview and then at Kenilworth on Saturday. Their best runner at Kenilworth looks to be Lemon Delight in the fifth race over 1200m, and she is good punting value at her current price of 9-2.
The Bass Racing image is Lemon Delight, photo by Chase Liebenberg