Some called it ‘the vibe’, others called it ‘the mojo’ – and it was all back after a two-year break when a boisterous crowd in excess of 30 000 came to Greyville to watch the 126th renewal of the R5 million Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July on Saturday.
While the occasion generated most of its traditional buzz and appeal, this was a Durban July unique in ‘comeback’ spirit that will be remembered for giving our stalwart patron Mary Slack her first Durban July winner courtesy of four-year-old filly, Sparling Water. While her parents, Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer, won the race six times, and Wilgerbosdrift has bred a number of champions, this was Mary’s first HDJ winner as an owner, and she was absolutely glowing with pride and happiness after the race.
“I can’t believe it, it’s wonderful,” said Mary. “I couldn’t be happier.
“She comes from a strong female line and soon she’ll be at stud and it will be even better.”
Mike de Kock, touched by the occasion, said: “We are privileged to share this moment of great joy with Mary. This win was as deserving for an owner as any in the history of this great race. We are truly thankful for her patronage and for what she’s done for racing.”
Sparkling Water (16-1), the sole member of the fairer sex in the class of 2022, romped clear off a modest pace into the final 300m, to beat Jet Dark (16-1) by 3 lengths in a time of 135,08 secs. She was given an enterprising ride by S’Manga Khumalo, who moved her across from a 12-draw to the box seat, handier than expected, tracked just two into the straight and then pounced in thrilling fashion. The race was as good as over with 150m to run. Sparkling Water raced to the line with her ears pricked and won from Jet Dark, Safe Passage and Do It Again.
Horses certainly don’t know their odds. Sparkling Water drifted from 6-1 on Friday through 8s and 10’s to touch a most generous 16-1, with surprisingly little on-course support for one of the best weighted runners in the race.
“S’Manga had a game plan and he rode a peach of a race,” said Mike of the talented Khumalo, who bagged his second July winner in front of appreciative fans. He’s become a popular showman really, and is a good, professional advert for South African racing.
Sparkling Water was Mike de Kock’s third fairer sex victress in the big race after Ipi Tombe (2002) and Igugu (2011) – and his fifth overall.
The Wilgerbosdrift& Mauritzfontein-bred winner is a fifth Durban July winner for the deceased champion Silvano (Lomitas). She is second foal of the well-performed Espumanti, who raced for Mike and Mary and retired after an unplaced run in the July in 2014. She is by Dansili out of Jouet and raced 17 times for six wins from 1160m -1900m.
Espumanti won two Gr2 races and was Gr1-placed three times, including a second to superstar Beach Beauty in the 2012 Garden Province Stakes.
Sparkling Water has won 7 races with 8 places from 16 starts for stakes of R4 354 125.