Established Champions in all sports have the capacity to take success in their stride and eighteen-year-old apprentice sensation Lyle Hewitson is on the right path in this regard.
Hewitson stood by jockey Richard Fourie at Summerveld yesterday and it would have been difficult to tell who between them was on the cusp of his first Vodacom Durban July ride and who had already won the race before, such was the relaxed demeanour of both.
Hewitson said, “I am just going about life as normal at the moment as I am riding in races this week. But there is a great vibe around the July, the press have been great, it’s very exciting.”
He learnt about a month ago he would have a July ride, but did not know which horse he would be on. He added it was only when his name was revealed at the draw ceremony next to the Justin Snaith-trained contestant Dynamic it hit him and he described it as a “surreal” moment.
The reaction from his alma mata Kearsney College emphasised the feat as he received a barrage of sms’s and social media messages from pupils, Old Boys and teachers alike.
A lot of his friends attend the July every year, but are especially looking forward to Saturday’s renewal as they will have somebody to cheer home.
Hewitson admitted he had never dreamed he would be in this position just over three months ago when making his professional debut on March 6 at Scottsville.
He has already added 53 winners to the 22 he achieved as a workrider and will almost certainly lose his claim in record-breaking time. He said, “I couldn’t have mapped anything I have done so far.” Dynamic, a six-year-old gelding by Dynasty, is drawn in pole.
However, Hewitson is yet to plan his race. He said, “We have a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the race.” Dynamic has a tough task, being 3kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings, and he is rated a 33/1 chance by bookmakers. However, Hewitson has been happy with the horse’s preparation.
Dynamic finished a four length third in last season’s July consolation race, the Gr 3 tabGold 2200, in his only attempt at the July trip. However, he was staying on strongly when runner up as a three-year-old in the Gr 1 Investec Cape Derby, so looks to have the necessary stamina reserves.
Meanwhile, Fourie was quietly confident about his mount, the Snaith-trained Investec Cape Derby winner It’s My Turn.
He was happy with the Dynasty gelding’s July gallop and said, “He was on the wrong leg but I wasn’t worried because we were going slow. When I picked it up he quickened instantly.” On his chances he said, “At Greyville if you have a Dynasty you have a big chance.”
It’s My Turn, who is coming off a possibly unlucky second in the Gr 1 Daily News 2000, is officially 2,5kg under sufferance and has a tough draw of 14 to overcome. He is 13/1 with most bookmakers.
By David Thiselton
Gavin van Zyl runs three-year-old Rocketball in the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday and has a number of other runners at the meeting.
The horse the yard seem most bullish about on the day is the KZN Yearling Million contender Poster Girl, while Sunday’s KZN Million Mile winner No Worries will likely be scratched from the SABC Gold Vase.
Jockey Warren Kennedy described Rocketball as a “very strong horse”, so was not concerned by his antics at the July gallops when keen as they set off.
He said they had gone a very slow pace, so he had not surprisingly taken a “tug”, but he added the main thing was “he did not overdo it.”
Kennedy pointed to the Judpot gelding’s recorded 22,9 second 400m to finish time at the gallops as proof he had the necessary finishing speed for the tight Greyville track.
The timing system on the day is done through a flag drop, so the accuracy has to be questioned, but Rocketball did quicken well in the Gr 1 SA Derby.
In the Gr 1 Daily News the pace had been too slow and Kennedy said, “He had too much ground to make up, but ran all the way to the line.”
He concluded, “He is in a good place, his prep has been good. I am happy with the draw (seven).”
Rocketball worked on the beach sand at Summerveld yesterday (Tuesday) and showed off his giant action. If he can come into the straight with momentum on Saturday that action could carry him close.
Kennedy’s best July finish has been third on the 100/1 shot Forest Path in 2009.
Kennedy said about first race contender Brown Sugar, who carries topweight of 62kg minus the 2,5kg claim of Eric Saziso Ngwane, “It’s her favourite course and distance (1400m), she won well last time, and has the claimer aboard.” The form of that last race is hard to assess, but the field were well spread out which usually indicates a good performance and the handicappers gave the four-year-old a four point raise in the merit ratings.
The yard have two runners in the Middle Stakes over 1400m and Kennedy said, “Bagger Vance (drawn 14 with Brandon Lerena up) has become consistent and is in a good space at the moment. Tipo Tinto is a funny horse, he is seven-years-old, and hard to predict.” If Tipo Tinto repeats his last run over course and distance, when most unlucky, he could earn from a draw in which he should be able to drop in as there is plenty of pace on his inside.
Gavin van Zyl said about Isca, who runs in the Compendium MR 103 handicap over 1000m on the poly, “He is quick, so this could be his right trip and he drawn next to the right horse (Harry Lime).” The grey Var gelding has been dropped three points, but is 0,5kg under sufferance. He put in a flying bit of work on the beach sand yesterday (Tuesday) and is looking in tip, top shape. He jumps from draw two under Kennedy and has a chance provided he behaves in the pens. Just Ask Me runs here too and Gavin said he had been doing nicely, but would find it too short.
Poster Girl is next up and Anton Marcus rides from a plum draw of two in the lucrative 1300m event. Kennedy emphasised, “She is doing very, very well at the moment.” He pointed out she was the only horse in the field with Gr 1 form.
Assistant trainer Gareth van Zyl said about the yard’s runners in the eleventh race, the tabGold Sprint over 1200m on the polytrack, “Budapest is doing well, it might be a bit sharp, but it’s worth a shot. Redcarpet Captain has been gelded, but it is not easy from the draw (eleven).” He said Redcarpet Captain had improved in his work since gelding. The pair worked together on the beach sand yesterday (Tuesday) and Redcarpet Captain showed a lot of speed and had to be reined in by Kennedy, but it was the reverse in their grass gallop the other day, where Budapest had the better of it.
Kennedy said Celtic Captain would be alright returning to the mile in the Listed Daisy Business Solutions Handicap on the turf and did not expect him to repeat his antic of looking at the big TV screen, which had proved costly after he had quickened into the lead in the Gr 2 Canon Guineas. He added the horse’s run in the Daily News 2000 had not panned out well, so it was not necessarily due to him not staying the trip. Gavin Lerena will be aboard Celtic Captain from draw eight, while Kennedy will ride the honest Silver Spring from draw five. The latter has dropped back to the 90 merit rated mark off which he finished a narrow second in the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap, although he is known to have a few soundness issues.
By David Thiselton
Jockeys Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus will both be attempting to land a record-breaking fifth win in South Africa’s biggest horse race, the Vodacom Durban July, at Greyville on Saturday.
Delpech looks to have the better chance of achieving the milestone this year, at least as far as the betting odds go.
He is aboard the ruling favourite Bela-Bela, who was as eyecatching as usual when working on the top sand track at Summerveld yesterday morning (Monday).
The power in her stride is evident even at an easy pace.
Some say a low draw of three will make it tough for the three-year-old filly in her first ever race against males, especially as the July is renowned for being a rough race.
However, Delpech disagrees.
He said, “I would prefer to be drawn three than 20. She has good gate speed and is a simple horse to ride.”
Bela-Bela is only 0,5kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings. Furthermore, trainer Justin Snaith pointed out she had not yet proved how good she was. In his opinion all three of his three-year-olds in the race will have considerably higher merit ratings in six months time.
The grey Dynasty filly is out of the amazing 20-year-old broodmare Mystic Spring, who has also produced the like of Rabiya, Secret Of Victoria, Spring Lilac and Rafiya.
Bela-Bela’s breeder Vaughan Koster of Cheveley Stud was there to see her at Summerveld yesterday morning.
Vaughan bred the Snaith-trained July winner of 2014, Legislate, who was also by the great 2002 July winner Dynasty.
Anton Marcus said he would have preferred to be closer to the fence than draw eleven, especially considering he was on a horse which he was not sure was good enough to win the race. However, he said his mount, the Joey Ramsden-trained four-year-old Silvano gelding St. Tropez, had been doing very well in his preparation.
St. Tropez is 3,5kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings.
Marcus believed another Markus Jooste-owned July candidate Rabada had put in a “great run” in Sunday’s KZN Breeder’s Million Mile. The Brave Tin Soldier colt, with Marcus up, was beaten only 1,5 lengths and the top jockey pointed out he was weighted to have only run fourth.
Trainer Mike Azzie and connections were due to monitor how Rabada had pulled up out of Sunday’s race before deciding whether to run him in the July or not.
By David Thiselton
Grant van Niekerk now believes that Marinaresco’s 19 draw holds no fears for either him or the horse. He initially considered it to be the worst draw of the lot – and indeed so did punters and bookmakers, and the three-year-old’s price went out from 6-1 to 9-1.
But Van Niekerk said: “The draw doesn’t really bother me that much because I now think the best going is probably three or four horses off the rails as there are patches on the track.
“In any case I was always going to give him a chance. It will be his first time racing at Greyville and I don’t want to make it hard for him. But I think he will suit the course and I know he will make up the ground. He is a very good horse, probably up there with the best I’ve ridden.”
Mike Bass’s final July runner hasn’t always been easy to handle. “He used to be very naughty in a race, fighting other horses, and if he worked alongside something he would have his ears flat back as he tried to have a go at the horse and it’s rider.”
Gelding and blinkers have channelled this in the required direction – “He is now all heart in a race and he fights to the line. I just have to find luck in running.”
This will be the fourth Vodacom July ride for Van Niekerk who will be 25 on Thursday and who is hoping to gain compensation for being robbed on 55-1 shot Smanjemanje four years ago.
He recalled: “It was my first ride in the race and I can remember every single bit of it. I went into it with no pressure. I knew the horse had ability but maybe not up to that class.
“However he surprised me. I got bumped twice (by the Jeff Lloyd-ridden Chesalon) in the straight and I still believe today that this cost me the race. I was pushed from the outside to the middle and I was only beaten a short head.”
Joey Ramsden, whose St Tropez (Anton Marcus) is sixth in the betting at 12-1, also runs 20-1 shot The Conglomerate (Piere Strydom).
He said: “I think it’s a very open race. It is going to take a nice horse to win but you are going to have to have a fair bit of fortune – I don’t see a lot of pace. However I’m spoilt in that I have two of the best riders in the country, if not the world.”
Justin Snaith, bidding for a third July win, also believes luck in running will be important – “Any one of my four can win, it’s a question of how the race pans out for them. At the moment I think I won’t even want to watch – I will go there and close my eyes!”
By Michael Clower
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