Punters and racing fans are in for a massive treat as the focus of the racing nation turns to its annual highlight, the Durban July meeting at HWB Greyville. The feast of racing is backed by a R2-million Pick 6 carryover (a R20-million pool is forecast) and a carryover of R1 million to the Durban July Quartet, that is set to set to generate a total pool of R10 million. Jackpot Three, which starts in Race 9, boasts a R500,000 carryover injection that is set to produce a R2-million pool. Betway’s tote clients can access those pools here.
Mike de Kock has Safe Passage and Dave The King representing him in the R5-million flagship race over 2200m, and both are in fine condition. Mike has noted in the run-up to the race that he believes this year’s renewal favours the older horses at the weights, but he said on Friday: “I was told this week how good our three-year-old Dave The King’s fractions were over 2000m in the Daily News. His rival three-year-old, See It Again, came from behind him that day and ran past him. On that, See It Again does look hard to beat but still he has to give weight to some talented four-year-olds, including Winchester Mansion and Pacaya. Our own Safe Passage is also in there with a chance. As always, this is an interesting contest with questions to be answered.”
Safe Passage has the mercurial Christophe Soumillon holding his reins – the Belgian-born Frenchman is worth a length or two on the best of them, on any track in the world – and that is a factor to consider. Mike said: “I was stuck for a jockey, I phoned Christophe and fortunately he agreed to fly out. Safe Passage can be quirky – we thought he’d need the run in last year’s Daily News and he won the race as he liked. He’s that type of horse. His work into this year’s July is good, we expect him to be competitive.
“Dave The King is 1kg better off with See It Again on Daily News form, but See It Again won the race well. Dave The King has enjoyed a good prep, he is in top condition and he deserves his place in the race. He’ll be stretched over 2200m, but I think he will give a good account.”
The stable has eight other runners on the big day, starting with the trio of Aragosta, Union Square and Black Thorn in the Splashout 2200 (Race 3). Mike said: “Union Square has been disappointing. We’re taking the blinkers off and he may need gelding. He’s a horse with ability as we saw from his Dingaans win, put him in your Quartet. Aragosta tends to lug in at Greyville, we’re putting cheek pieces on him and that may do the trick. He’s a big runner with Christophe up. Black Thorn will need the run after his layoff.”
White Pearl goes to post in the G2 Golden Slipper (Race 5) over 1400m and Mike commented: “She’s an improving type by a top stallion in Danon Platina, her form looks good and I make her a big runner.”
Next up, promising Gimmeanotherchance in Race 6, the G3 Golden Horseshoe over 1400m. “He’s a nice horse, we’ve always had a high regard for him, potentially a Guineas horse for later. He’s improving still, we really wanted a good draw for him here but we got 13, which can be messy because lesser runners being scrubbed along for position can keep you wide early. He has a winning chance, but we’ll have to get lucky from that draw.”
The G1 Garden Province Stakes is an eagerly awaited contest between star filly Princess Calla and Mike’s champion Desert Miracle, who meet over a mile – that is the factor which may swing things in Desert Miracle’s favour. Princes Calla has had her measure twice over 1200m, but Mike said: “She beat us in the Sceptre Stakes, a race Desert Miracle should’ve won; and then again in the SA Fillies Sprint when we came from behind her and she had the run of the race. Desert Miracle runs well off a prep sprint, on her day, if she has no niggles, she can beat the best. So this is an exciting race, we know how good Princess Calla is, but our filly shouldn’t be left out of anything. Our other Humdinger is at best around 1400m, this is a tough ask for her. On her courage, a Quartet prospect.”
Iphiko is a 1000m specialist and she’ll be tested in the G2 Post Merchants over 1200m, but her pace is always a factor and Mike said: “She just needed her last two runs. This race is overall very open, you can’t leave her out, she is well.”
To end the day, Forever Mine in a Listed Handicap over 1600m. Mike said: “He is a 1400m specialist who likes to gallop and a good draw is paramount. We have the draw and Richard Fourie, the mile is not ideal but he has to come into play.”