Skip to main content
Gold Circle
A horse who has won Graded events and is merit rated between 116-118 is better performed on paper than one who has won one Grade 3 and is merit rated 108.
However, do a survey in racing which horse has a better chance of winning the Hollywoodbets Durban July, the Andre Nel-trained Airways Law or a cluster of older horses merit rated between 116 to 118 and Airways Law will probably come out on top.
The reason is simply because he is unexposed.
He is one of the most exciting protagonists in the July, in the opinion of many, because nobody knows how good he is.
He might indeed be a 108, but he might be a champion.
He has run eight times and won five times and in his only effort in Graded company he came from last over 1800m at Hollywoodbets Greyville to win.
Carrying bottom weight, the four-year-old Legislate gelding would have had to win the Grade 3 Hollywoodbets Dolphins Cup Trial more easily than a quarter of a length to go higher in the merit ratings, but the racing saying “you can only win” is a truism. The aim of any race is to win, not to win by five lengths, and a jockey, especially on a hold up horse like Airways Law, plans his race accordingly.
In 1980 the Durban July ante-post favourite Cracker Lily was left out of the final field.
In those days they used to choose the field strictly in weights order and, therefore, many an up-and-coming youngster was left out, and often at the expense of older horses who were on the wane and had no realistic chance.
Therefore, to prevent this occurrence in the future, a clause was put into the conditions basically saying the final field could be chosen at the sole discretion of the operator.
The clause states, “It is an express condition of this race that the Company reserves the right to exclude any horse, which in its opinion, does not warrant inclusion in the race. In addition, the Company shall have the right to exclude any horse at declaration stage and to decide on the final field for the race.”
Furthermore, ten prestigious races have been included in the conditions alongside the statement that the winner of those races wins automatic inclusion in the final field, subject to satisfactory fitness at the time of the race.
Then there are three races identified where it states the winner of those races is given “preferential consideration for inclusion in the final field”.
One of those is the Cup Trial, which Airways Law won.
The panelists were thus given a clause to help them include an exciting, unexposed horse.
Instead they lumped for a horse or two who have likely reached their level.
Perhaps the clause should be changed to state “preferential consideration for the top 18”, in this day when the field includes two reserve runners.
It could be argued that the borderline horses the panelists lumped for also have chances. With their low weights they could feasibly reverse form on paper with others from weight for age events.
However, none of them are ever going to be champions and that dream, however improbable, is still intact with Airways Law, which is why he has attracted so much intrigue.
That is not to mention there is a precedent to his exclusion.
In 2017 Coral Fever won a race. the Grade 3 Jubilee Handicap, which was at that stage a “preferential consideration” race.
He won with a low weight and had a low merit rating, which is presumably the same argument against Airways Law, and he was excluded from the final field.
However, the following season Coral Fever won the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge and had to carry topweight in the July. He was beaten 8,4 lengths, as a five-year-old, but how close would he have gone the previous season with bottom weight?
The panelists have opened themselves for more egg on their faces.
They have made a safe choice.
However, they were entitled to do so and their arguments are no doubt based on sound logic.
Nevertheless, the race has lost a little of its intrigue, at least from the point of view of Airways Law’s supporters.
However, some would argue it has added to the intrigue of the day because he will have the opportunity to prove a point in the July consolation race, the Grade 3 Campanajo 2200.
Shango, in fact, proved such a point last year.
The connections of the borderline horses, who did make it, will also be out to vindicate the choices of the final field panelists and prove their critics wrong.
So. which ever way it is looked at, the July ultimately has a ton of intrigue and no final field controversy has ever detracted from it.
Airways Law is first reserve, so does still have a chance of making the final field if there is a scratching before 08H15 on Friday 1 July.
In fact his rider Gareth Wright snuck into the field in that manner in 2019 and proved a point by finishing a three length sixth on Camphoratus.
Picture: Airways Law (nearest) winning the Grade 3 Hollywoodbets Dolphins Cup Trial (Candiese Lenferna).