MARY Slack has two runners in her familiar black colours with a scarlet cap in this year’s Vodacom Durban July, Ilha Bela and Gorongosa, who are both trained by Mike de Kock, writes DAVID THISELTON.
Ilha Bela is the daughter of the only July runner in Slack’s colours to date, the champion mare Ilha Da Vitoria, who finished tenth in 2005, two lengths behind the winner Dunford.
The Irish-bred Gorongosa, a five-year-old mare by Montjeu, will carry 53,5kg and drew well in barrier seven, while Ilh Bela, a three-year-old Fort Wood filly, drew way wide in barrier 21.
Gorongosa has won nine of her twelve starts, including her last five in succession, but her last eight runs have been over trips from 2 400m to 3 200m.
Ilha Bela has improved tremendously this season and after finishing a short-head second in the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas, finished a narrow third in the Grade 1 SA Fillies’ Classic and was then a facile winner of the Grade 2 SA Oaks over the tough Turffontein 2450m.
Slack said, “At least she will be safe from her wide draw.”
Slack didn’t have a preference for either horse and said, “Gorongosa will find it too short and Ilha Bela is drawn hopelessly. I just hope they both come back safely.”
Slack bought Ilha da Vitoria in Brazil as a yearling.
In an interview in July last year she recalled, “She had a good pedigree and although she was small she had a big backside. Jehan Malherbe, myself and Mike de Kock all liked her.”
Despite having raced other top fillies like Mother Russia, Slack admitted, “Sentimentally Ilha is still my favourite.”
Ilha da Vitoria ran 26 times for 10 wins and 14 places including an amazing 10 second places.
Her seconds included four Grade 1s, the J&B Met, the Paddock Stakes, the Garden Province and the Triple Tiara 1 600.
However, she lost her bridesmaid tag in the 2005/2006 season when she was five, and was named the joint Equus Horse Of The Year having won the Grade 1 Summer Cup, the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Grade 2 GommaGomma Challenge, and finishing second in the Met and Paddock Stakes. She was retired after the most impressive win of her career in the GommaGomma.
Ilha Bela is also a small grey, although she is not as bulky as her mother.
Ilha da Vitoria’s first foal was the Tiger Ridge filly Ilha Grande, who also earned black type by winning the Listed Oaks Trial.
She currently has a yearling and a two-year-old Tiger Ridge on the ground and was due to foal down to Right Approach last year.
Ilha Bela drifted out to 7-1 after last Thursday’s July draw ceremony, but remains second favourite, while Gorongosa has been claimed twice since the draw, from 20-1 into 16-1 and then into 15-1.
Ilha Bela will be ridden by Anthony Delpech, who together with De Kock will be attempting an unprecedented third win in succession.
Both Delpech and De Kock will be going for their fifth July winner overall, and in Delpech’s case that would set a new record for July jockeys.
Gorongosa will be ridden by Kevin Shea, who will be going for his third July win.