Durban July Day: Africa’s greatest race and eight other feature events



History: The Durban July spans three centuries, having first been run in 1897. The race was sponsored by Rothmans from 1963 until 2000 with Vodacom taking over the sponsorship in 2002.

Every year the running of the country's premier race for thoroughbreds sees Greyville bursting at the seams with celebrities, socialites and bejewelled followers of fashion. It's a unique occasion and the greatest horseracing event on the continent. And it sparks the biggest betting spree of the year in South Africa with over R100 million being bet on the tote and even more with fixed-odds operators.

The race had humble beginnings back in 1897 when it attracted just seven runners and was contested over 1 mile (1600m) for a stake of 500 sovereigns.

It was not long, however, before businesses started closing at noon to enable the entire settlement to attend the races. And as the raceday continued to grow in popularity, it began to draw visitors from all corners of South Africa.

The race was sponsored for the first time in 1963 and the stake upped to a then massive R30,000. Under this sponsorship the race quickly grew into a sporting event which stopped the nation.

The 1966 race created headlines across the country when the favourite, Sea Cottage, was shot in a hindquarter a few weeks prior to the race. The dramatic incident created much anguish, but Sea Cottage recovered quickly and the gutsy Syd Laird-trained colt courageously managed to finish fourth behind stablemate Java Head in the race.

Few will forget how he went on to claim the race in 1967, and the hearts of the nation along with it, when charging through from way to back to force a dead heat with Jollify on the post.

Vodacom sponsored the race for the first time in 2002, when trainer Mike de Kock’s charge Ipi Tombe scored a famous victory. She went onto greater fame in March the following year when she captured the Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night at Nad Al Sheba.

Whichever way you look at it, there is simply no other event in Africa quite like the Vodacom Durban July.

Interesting facts:

DISTANCE – First run over a mile (1600m) in 1897, the distance was changed in 1906 to 1 mile 68 yards (about 1670m), in 1913 to 1 mile 1 furlong (1800m), in 1915 to 1 1/4 miles (2000m) and remained so until 1940. In 1941 the distance was changed to 1 mile 2 1/4 furlongs (about 2100m) and it was only in 1970 that it was changed to its current distance of 2200m.

WEIGHTS – The lightest weight of 38,5kg was carried to victory by Nymagee in 1904 and Margin in 1916. The heaviest weight of 66kg was carried to victory by Campanajo in 1898.

four horses have won the July two years running:
Campanajo (1897-98)
Corriecrian (1907-1908,
Milesia Pride (1949-50) and
El Picha (1999-2000).

DEAD HEATS – There have been only two winning dead heats in the history of the race. The first one took place in 1967 when Jollify and Sea Cottage could not be separated as they passed the post. And in 2008 the mighty Pocket Power and exceptional filly Dancer's Daughter could not be separated by the judges.

FIELDS – The biggest July field was in 1917, when 33 horses went to the start. The smallest fields were in 1897 and 1908, when only seven horses ran.

Event details:
Africa’s premier race, 50,000 people cram into Greyville Racecourse on the first Saturday of July every year. It’s a race that captures the imagination of the nation and it’s the biggest betting day of the year on the continent with hundreds of millions of rand being wagered.

Feature races:

R4.25 million Vodacom Durban July 2200m Grade 1

R1,000,000 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes 1600m Grade 1

R600,000 Durban Golden Horseshoe 1400m Grade 2

R600,000 TKZN Golden Slipper (2yo F) 1400m Grade 2

R500,000 DStv Gold Vase 3000m Grade 3

R500,000 Betting World 2200 2200m Grade 3

R130,000 Compendum eThekwini Sprint Sprint (Polytrack 3yos) 1200m

R1,000,000 KZN Yearling Sale Million (2yos) 1300m

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