IN his latest blog, Mike de Kock reflects on last Saturday’s 2014 Vodacom Durban July.
He writes: A number of betting records were set at Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July meeting. The record R13,7-million Pick 6 Pool and a record R10,6-million Quartet pool on the main race contributed to a record R127-million tote turnover for the day, an increase of 11% on 2013.
This is good news because it shows that South Africa’s premier race still generates the traditional hype and excitement that made it famous. It also bears testimony to the marketing efforts of Phumelela and Gold Circle in the build-up to this year’s race.
Last Friday everyone was talking about the massive carryover Pick 6 pool and by Saturday morning the excitement had built to fever pitch – information was passed around, betting syndicates were formed and the queues at on-course betting windows reflected the almost frenzied interest. I am told the off-course agencies and betting halls were also jam-packed.
Wylie Hall (nearest camera) and Legislate: Controversial battle!
In my runner review on Sunday I pointed to the poor condition of the Greyville track, but let me also put on record my compliments and appreciation to Gold Circle for staging a magnificent and well-organised event that will bring the masses back next year. A huge team effort went into 2014 July Day and the experience was world-class, on a par with some of the world’s most prestigious and best-attended race meetings.
As a result of Gold Circle’s focus over the last few years, the Durban July has grown in stature, internationally. The demand for race day privileges from accredited international journalists have increased and I saw a number of familiar faces from the international racing press at the track on Saturday. Their comments were heartwarming and I know that some posted their observations in messages on Twitter and Facebook. Dubai-based Laura King, for one, described the singing of the national anthem and the on-course atmosphere as truly exhilarating.
Every bit of positive news from our racing industry that reaches the rest of the world helps to create a good image and secures our position as a significant contributor to global racing. Good publicity takes us further, step by step.
The Durban July is seldom without controversy of sorts. Not surprisingly the objection lodged after this year’s race led to many heated debates and even arguments on and off course. Supporters of the rank outsider Wily Hall had heaps of cash coming if the original result was confirmed, but there were many more tickets riding on the favourite, Legislate. Both sides made plenty of noise!
There are two schools of thought about what had transpired over the last 200m of the July and the outcome of the objection. I have been asked me for my view and let me start by saying that I don’t envy the Stipendiary Stewards for one second – they have a job to do and sometimes they are faced with the kind of decisions that would make most individuals run and hide.
This is racing and in commenting on an objection like this one must never get personal. In viewing the replay a few times it is my objective opinion that Wily Hall was a worthy winner. His jockey MJ Byleveld has been blamed for his ride in some quarters, but to my mind he rode a good race and did what he could to keep his mount on a straight course.
Richard Fourie did nothing wrong on Legislate either, but over the last 200m the three-year-old had every chance to go past Wylie Hall but didn’t do it. The older horse kept him at bay, albeit by a narrow margin. I think Wylie Hall would have won even if there was no intimidation from either side. Again, my opinion is just that, an opinion.
In complete fairness, this is an objection of which the outcome could have gone either way. I’ve noted before that there should be a way of taking the results of objections on appeal to a higher court. There was a rule that allowed for this and as I recall gave the parties involved a week to lodge an appeal, but it was scrapped years ago. This was mistake. What we have now is a handful of Stipes who have too much power, too much responsibility if you wish. They are charged with making hugely important decisions within just minutes of deliberation. Their calls can have far-reaching ramifications and can influence individual careers, the stud book, standard-setting statistics and more.
The Stipes absolutely don’t always get it right. There is a need for recourse to a higher level, perhaps to a board of independents who can make independent judgements in controversial cases.
It’s all water under the bridge now, however. Nobody has died and racing goes on. I feel for Weiho Marwing and his connections, but I am also happy that Justin Snaith and his team were able to crown their fantastic results this season as official winners of the Durban July. Justin will be the new Champion Trainer of South Africa this term, he has worked very hard for this achievement and I will be proud to hand the Title to such a deserving individual at the end of the month.
Please pardon the pun, but we can all take a Leaf from the book of Wily Hall’s owner, a true sportsman who, after winning a Listed Race later in the evening, told how he had been “truly shattered” by his runner’s demotion, but that he’d fully accepted the result and that his later success had consoled him and his family. He was privileged to have been a part of the historic occasion. Congratulations to the official winners were in order.