BELGARION (9-2), the best handicapped runner in the 2020 Vodacom Durban July, won Saturday’s flagship event from Got The Greenlight, Do It Again and Golden Ducat.
Belgarion, who’d had his route into the race mapped out more than a year ago, rewarded trainer Justin Snaith with his fifth July winner, jockey Richard Fourie with his third, stallion Dynasty with his second and owner-breeders Alec and Gillian Foster with a long-awaited first success.
Belgarion, in Snaith’s words, wasn’t fully utilised as a young horse due to niggles, but in the long run that played in the stable’s favour, as he was unexposed . Perfectly placed in his last three runs, he avoided penalties and came into the July with 53kg, perhaps up to 3kg under his true ability.
That’s what winning a Durban July is all about, and the Snaiths have their July preparation down to a tee. Justin has many years left in his profession, and Syd Laird’s record seven July winners look in realistic danger, even with two more to go for the formidable Philippi operation.
“I’m over the moon for the Fosters,” Snaith said: “They’ve been in SA racing for a long time, it has been their dream to have a July winner, they’ve bred and owned one now. Well done also to John Freeman for helping them with their matings.”
Fourie, who rode another gem of a race, coming from near last, commented: “I wanted to conserve Belagarion’s energy early on, because I knew I’d need it in the straight.”
Like his sire Dynasty (2004), Belgarion raced wide into the straight and came to the grandstand fence for a run, rallying well to win. “The best three horses in the race ran one, two and three,” said Fourie.
The race answered several questions.
First, it can now be accepted that both Vardy and Bunker Hunt simply don’t stay. Vardy is best up to 1800m, Bunker Hunt is arguably a 1400m-miler. They were right alongside Belgarion and second-placed Got The Greenlight for most of the journey, took off together from the rear but failed to find extra when it counted.
The three-year-old crop, represented by Padre Pio, Shango, Got The Greenlight and Golden Ducat, are not half bad. Two three-year-olds made the first four.
Do It Again was indeed back to his best on the day, ran a cracker of a race in third, just beaten by two younger horses on the up, but again deserving of accolades. He will go down in history as one of the July greats.
The VDJ draw is of almost no significance. We say it every year and every year those drawn on the inside rejoice and those who get the outside stalls lament their fate. With so many winners of this race winning from wide draws, let’s see if we can swing the draw ceremony next year to celebrate wide draws and cry about the inside ones, not the other way round!
Rainbow Bridge, from what was visible on TV, cantered down sweaty and turned in a performance that may have been a length or two below his best. He hit the front with a double handful at the 400m, but kept on at one pace. Next year, perhaps, owner Mike Rattray will have another chance with the promising Golden Ducat.
Belgarion is a bay gelding by Dynasty from Riva, by Acatenango, has won seven of nine starts, earning R1,53-million for his owners.
Pic: Belgarion (Richard Fourie), first past the post. (Candiese Lenferna).