SNAITH Racing announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon that jockey Anthony Delpech had opted to ride Varsfontein Stud’s smashing filly Bela-Bela in the 2016 Vodacom Durban July, which may, or may not be a significant pointer to the race. Douglas Whyte has been booked for her stablemate Black Arthur.

Black Arthur (9-2) and Bela-Bela (11-2) are the favourite and second favourite respectively for the big race on 2 July. Both have been prepared into the race like top classic horses, with six runs for four wins apiece. Delpech won Graded races on both in their most recent starts.

But how significant will Delpech’s choice prove to be?  In his post-Woolavington interview, he was asked to compare the winner Bela-Bela with Black Arthur and declined to offer an answer, saying only that Igugu had been the best filly he’d ridden.  Has his choice of mounts answered the question now, or should we read nothing into it other than marginal personal preference?

Black Arthur: This could be Doug Whyte's lucky year!
Black Arthur: This could be Doug Whyte’s lucky year!

More than likely, there is really very little between them.

Over the years, the Woolavington Stakes has been one of the best pointers to greatness, with Ipi Tombe (2002), Igugu (2011) and Smart Call (2015), the most notable major-race winners to come from it.

Factors like track condition and pace always come into play, but at this point all we have to compare Bela-Bela with the mentioned stars are times recorded and they seem to suggest that the Snaith filly will have a few lengths to find against her male rivals.

Bela-Bela’s time when she won the Woolavington on 28 May was 125.35s, markedly slower than the times set by Igugu (122.62s, 2011), Smart Call (123.18s, 2015), and the great Ipi Tombe (122.7s, 2002).

We’re comparing runners from different eras, but in trying to establish how Bela-Bela will shape, times are all we have to go on and Delpech’s assessment of Igugu appears spot-on if we take the above at face value.  If Bela-Bela is indeed a few seconds inferior to the champion fillies who have won this race, Delpech may have made the wrong choice.

Whatever the theories that are bound to surface over the next two weeks and whatever the outcome, Justin Snaith has two high quality runners in the race, one by Silvano and one by Dynasty.  He’ll be saying, “Only one can win it, and let that be one of mine!”

Hang on, though, the last time Snaith put a top grey filly in the Durban July, she dead-heated! That was Dancer’s Daughter, who couldn’t be separated from Pocket Power when they hit the line together in 2008. The mighty “Pocket” won’t be in the race this year, but his famous silks will be!

What odds then, on this prediction?  Bela-Bela and Marinaresco to dead-heat in the 2016 Durban July.



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