Africa’s Biggest Race Day Arrives

Africa’s Biggest Race Day Arrives

Pierre Jourdan, after his morning gallop 28 June. Image: Candiese Marnewick

The big day has finally arrived with the running of the Vodacom Durban July taking place this afternoon. Gavin Van Zyl discusses Eton Square and comments from Gary Alexander regarding Pierre Jourdan, as well as the hope that lies with Lady De Winter bred by The Avalon Stud, a horse who passed through the KZN Yearling Sale unsold last year, in the Grade 1 Golden Slipper today, courtesy of David Thistleton.

It has been a big week in KZN, starting off with the Gallops that took place, the KZN Breeders Golf Day, KZN Breeders Million Mile on Sunday won by Knock On Wood, the Suncoast 2012 KZN Yearling Sale was a huge success and tomorrow will be followed by the annual Stallion Day taking place at the South Africa’s Champion Breeders for seven years in a row – Summerhill Stud. Their hopes lie with Pierre Jourdan and Smanjemanje this year in the big race.

Summerveld is abuzz with Vodacom Durban July day talk at present and one popular opinion is that the Gavin van Zyl-trained three-year-old Eton Square’s chances are increasing by the day. Van Zyl was also bullish about the chances of Seal in the Gold Vase, while runners on the big day from other yards were also being given the thumbs up.

Eton Square slammed Knock On Wood by 4,75 lengths when winning the Grade 3 Jubilee over 1800m at Turffontein and although he was receiving 4,5kg from the four-year-ol Muhtafal colt, the latter franked the form when winning the inaugural running of the KZN Breeder’s Million Mile on Sunday at Greyville despite carrying 58,5kg.

Van Zyl felt Eton Square had not been green when going to the front in the Jubilee and then having to rally back after being overtaken, but had instead shown his fighting spirit.

He reckoned that based on what he had shown in work and in his racing career to date he was a “top horse.” Furthermore, he has an all important good draw of five. Eton Square is being prepared by Van Zyl’s son Chesney at Turffontein and travelled down to Summerveld on Thursday.

Pierre Jourdan will have another bite at a fairytale victory in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July and trainer Gary Alexander said the chief reason he wanted to win it was for his father Duncan, who went close a few times as a jockey in the big race. Alexander reckoned the five-year-old Parade Leader gelding was moving better than he had been this time last year and was very happy with his preparation.

“He’s had a very good prep,” said Alexander, talking from Summerveld, where Pierre Jourdan has been based for the Champions Season. Pierre Jourdan has only had one race in Durban this season, when an eyecatching third in the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge over 1600m on June 9.

However, Alexander said, “He had a hard July gallop. He didn’t play and what Robbie (Fradd) was particularly pleased about was that he was pulling him up the hill and really wanted to do it.”
“He doesn’t take a lot. You only have to have him well on the day and he does the rest. That gallop has brought him on nicely.” Looking back on his career Alexander said that the way Pierre Jourdan had won the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas and the SA Classic as a three-year-old had shown that he had the ability at the highest level.

“But he then broke down in the Summer Cup. Since then he’s been on and off and we have to get him to move well on the day.” Pierre Jourdan ran a cracker last year, despite looking around at the new surrounds, and ran on strongly in the straight to finish just one length behind Igugu, who is regarded as one of the great winners of the race. Last year Pierre Jourdan was drawn four, a lot further in than his 13 draw this year, but Alexander reckoned this could be a plus.

“Last year he only just missed all the trouble, but he did get cut into from behind. The July is always going to be rough and rather be out than be knocked around. He has had one or two problems and being knocked won’t help.” Alexander reckoned Pierre Jourdan had the right jockey aboard in Robbie Fradd. “He knows him well and gets on well with him. Having him here to work him has also helped. He also has the necessary big match July temperament.”

Tales Of Bravery, by Kahal. Image: Candiese Marnewick

Fradd has won the July twice and a win this year would equal the nine year gap between his previous wins in 1994, when Space Walk was promoted after an objection, and 2003 on Dynasty. However, Alexander is concerned about Pierre Jourdan’s top weight of 60kg. “The weight is our biggest concern. If there were horses like Pocket Power in the field he would be carrying 56kg and Jackson would be carrying 55kg. Giving weight to the field is never easy in any big race.” Pierre Jourdan being auctioned to dissolve a partnership and Alexander had to go to R1,6 million to buy him back before syndicating him.

That price was a far cry from the R60,000 he was bought for at the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale of 2008. In 2010, when Pierre Jourdan was bidding for the Triple Crown, there were even people outside of racing that knew his name, an unusual occurrence in a country that doesn’t have as strong a racing culture as nations like Australia, England and Ireland. His rags to riches story earned him the nickname “the people’s horse” and there will be many rooting for him on Saturday.

Duncan Alexander will be among them, for not only did he have to settle for a family second last year, but rode Chichester to second place in 1970, Coast Guard to third place in 1969, Doctor John to fourth in 1963, while in 1965 his mount Rose Knight, who was very well and quietly fancied, fell. Gary admitted he was not envisaging the big time when he put up his hand for Pierre Jourdan at the Sales. “He had a lot of the right things I look for in the same way that some of the other cheap ones I’ve bought like Icy Air, Imperious Sue and Tommy Hotspur had. “PJ” is not a bulky horse and is very athletic, which is probably why some think he is small, but he in fact stands at a tall 16 hands two inches. However, he is a real gentleman.

“After he had travelled back from the July last year my daughter, who was only three at the time, went into his box and was doing things like pulling his ears and sticking her fingers up his nose,” said Alexander. “She spent half-an-hour in the box and it didn’t bother him at all. He has a lovely temperament.” He also loves posing for the cameras. Alexander concluded, “He is well prepped and is moving well, so now we are just hoping for luck in running.”

“A win would be a fairytale.”

A horse the KZN Breeders will be keeping an eager watch out for is Lady De Winter. Her trainer Wayne Badenhorst has an outside chance of a fairytale ending to his first full season as a licensed trainer as he runs the R15,000 “cheapie” Lady De Winter in the Grade 1 Durban Golden Slipper over 1400m on Vodacom Durban July day.

Badenhorst landed a highly meritorious double at Scottsville on May 30, considering he had a string of only six horses at the time. Lady De Winter, a Lion Tamer filly bred by Avalon Stud, ran on well that day to win a Maiden Juvenile for fillies over 1200m and two winners have already come out of that race.

She followed up with a 2,65 lengths third over 1400m at Scottsville to the Charles Laird-trained Yellow Card and the touted Mike de Kock-trained Western Winter filly Tayba, who is also entered in the Golden Slipper, was only 2,5 lengths in front of her. Lady De Winter is drawn nine and will have Kevin Shea aboard.Badenhorst said, “She will be better next year, so as she was only going to have one more run this season I thought we might as well have a go. She is looking well and could have a chance considering she only has to make up 2,5 length’s on Mike de Kock’s horse.”

Lady De Winter with trainer Wayne Badenhorst. Image: Gold Circle

Badenhorst’s string has increased to ten horses and he is confident of picking up a couple more at the Suncoast KZN Yearling Sales, which begin today (Thursday). He first sat on a horse as a twelve-year-old when working in his holiday’s at Paul Lafferty’s satellite yard in Port Elizabeth, which were run by Yvette Bremner. He had to learn to ride quickly and was soon an accomplished work rider.

When he was 19 years-old he did a seven month stint as a work rider in Hong Kong before returning to Bremner’s Port Elizabeth yard. He then took part in the movie Racing Stripes as one of the jockeys in the racing scenes. After that he had a two-year stint with David Payne in Australia before returning to Bremner’s yard again. He later became assistant to Alec Laird in Johannesburg. Laird sent him down to Summerveld for the Champions Season and he enjoyed it so much that he decided to stay and landed a job as Tony Rivalland’s assistant.

Just over a year ago he decided to take out his own training license. Badenhorst has had three winners to date, including that memorable double, and should build on that as his string grows. However, he would never have dreamed at the beginning of the season that he would have a tilt at Grade 1 glory on Africa’s Greatest Racing Day.

Sangoma Thembisani Mdlolo has been the traditional predictor of choice at the Vodacom Durban July for a number of years. After the Gallops he threw the bones in front of a rapt audience, which groaned when he announced that race favourite Jackson would finish second. According to his bones, the 2012 title will go to Smanjemanje, currently strengthening slightly from odds of 50-1, with the popular filly Ilha Bela third.

View our Facebook Page, KZN Breeders to keep up to date with the results of the Vodacom Durban July race day.

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