THE Glen Kotzen-trained Banner Hill has become a Vodacom Durban July dark horse since winning his SA Champions Season pipe opener over 1800m on the Greyville turf in impressive style on April 9.
The four-year-old Maine Chance Farms-bred Tiger Hill gelding will attempt to qualify for the big race on Friday night at Greyville, where he runs in the Gr 2 Betting World 1900.
Kotzen said, “He had always been our Gold Cup horse. But, when he won that 1800m race we opted for the July route. He now just has to run a cracker from a wide draw on Friday night. He is absolutely flying at home. He likes to run fresh, so we have given him a breather since that last win.”
The latter point might give him an edge, because the big rains over the last week have prevented any KZN horses from doing full work. Furthermore, the likely soft conditions tomorrow night will make the race more testing, which will play into his hands as he is a versatile type who has won from 1600m up to 3200m. Lastly, that 1800m win at Greyville was in “very soft” going, so he will enjoy the going conditions.
Banner Hill’s win on April 9 was his first outing since winning the Gr 3 Chairmans Cup over 3200m at Kenilworth. He raced off a 93 merit rating in the MR 93 1800m-handicap, meaning he had to carry topweight of 60kg. The long-striding bay went handy from draw five and was suited by a good pace. This allowed him to turn it on impressively at the top of the straight and from there on in he stayed on resolutely to win by 2,75 lengths.
Banner Hill has been raised to a 99 merit rating and faces a considerably stronger field tomorrow night. He did not feature in the first July log, so will need a big run. He jumps from draw 15 of 15, but a big plus point is that the world class Richard Fourie remains aboard. He will need a strong pace and could be vulnerable to horses which quicken well. However, he will be staying all the way to the line.
Banner Hill’s sire Tiger Hill stands in Germany at Gestüt Fährhof, owned by Andreas Jacobs, who owns Maine Chance Farms in South Africa. This Danehill stallion won three Grade 1s between one mile two furlongs (2000m) and one mile four furlongs (2400m) in the late 1990s. In 1998 he finished a one length third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the following year finished fifth in that elite event. As a sire Tiger Hill has produced the like of Rewilding, whose two Gr 1 wins include the Dubai Sheema Classic over a mile and four furlongs and Royal Ascot’s Prince Of Wales Stakes over a mile and two furlongs. Rewilding also finished third in the Investec Epsom Derby.
Kotzen secured Banner Hill for R200,000 at the CTS Premier Yearling Sale in 2014.
Banner Hill was an August 1 foal but started his career late, in the December of his three-year-old year, for two reasons. He injured himself one day after breaking loose and he is also a late maturing type. Kotzen confirmed Banner Hill was currently improving “month by month.”
Betting World are taking little chance with Banner Hill and have priced him up at 8/1 for the 1900 and 55/1 for the July.