When the stars come out at sunrise
by Andy Harrison
As Mike de Kock bids for his sixth July win, the one question that the large crowd that braved the early morning chill to watch the KZN-based Hollywoodbets Durban July runners being put through their paces was; did Dave The King work like a winner or was he shown up by the seemingly modest gallop of stable companion Safe Passage?
The pair worked together at Hollywoodbets Greyville with Dave The King dwarfing his stable companion and seemingly hardly out of a canter as he used his huge action like a well-oiled machine. Safe Passage on the other hand was seemingly hard-pressed to keep up, with rider JP van der Merwe hard at work, but both recorded the quickest 400m to finish time.
In an interview with Turf Talk, De Kock said that Safe Passage is not a good work horse.
“Safe Passage last year caught me unawares in the Daily News. He gives away nothing at the track. Last year I thought he needed the run, didn’t think he could run well, he goes and wins the Daily News. He’s a funny horse, he gives away nothing when it comes to work. But he is as sound and as well as I’ve ever seen him and moving probably the best I’ve seen him move ever.”
Asked whether world-class rider Christophe Soumillon being on Safe Passage meant the latter was the stable elect he replied, “You know, this horse Dave The King has improved a helluva lot. He is absolutely flying at home. He’s come on from his last start, he’s definitely improved on at least what he was beaten.”
De Kock continued, “However, I have a big question mark over the 2200m with Dave The King because he has a tremendous amount of pace and he has a massive, massive action.”
Most pundits agreed that, after Dave The King, three of the better showings were those of Without Question, stable companion Do It Again and current ante-post favourite See It Again.
With five horses to choose from as Justin Snaith’s first call rider, Richard Fourie picked Without Question and gave his gallop a mark of 10 out of 10 according to presenter Deez Dianand which is high praise in deed. Snaith has a knack of getting his runners into the big race with the least weight possible and Without Question fits that profile.
Many have written off two-time winner Do It Again because of his relatively advanced age, but he has yet to finish out of the money in his five starts and has been decidedly unlucky in his last two where he could have finished a lot closer but for traffic problems. He had similar issues in the recent Gr1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge but it was a cracking warm-up for the big one and back over his optimum trip he could become the oldest July winner ever.
Michael Roberts has seemingly prepped ante-post favourite See It Again to perfection and he turned in an eye-catching gallop under his regular work rider, Rachel Venniker. Piere Strydom will again be aboard the Gr1 Daily News 2000 winner and will become the oldest winning jockey should he add a fifth trophy to his cabinet, equaling that of Anton Marcus.
It was difficult to access the prerecorded Highveld gallops but the filly Rain In Holland appeared to have worked well for Sean Tarry and the Gr1 Woolavington winner is unbeaten at Hollywoodbets Greyville.
The R5 million Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July is Africa’s greatest horseracing event, featuring the pinnacle race in the South African calendar and will be run at Hollywoodbets Greyville over 2200m on Saturday July 1 where a full house of 55 000 people are expected through the turn styles.