TODAY, I wish to take racing fans and punters on a culinary adventure. I have sent in two photos for Turf Talk to print which I think will explain how I feel about this year’s Vodacom Durban July, writes GEORGE STARK.

Look at the first picture, this is of a fillet of beef prepared in a Michelin-star restaurant. The second picture is of a fillet of beef prepared by an amateur chef who had access to give or take the same ingredients.

Tell me, fellow diners, which dish would you take a delight in tucking into – the beautifully presented one or the unintelligent scramble?

You will notice that the Michelin dish has everything perfectly in place. The fillet, in the right position, there is hispi cabbage in there, a small piece of sauteed scallop, mango tangle and dark lemon jus, everything blends for a perfect outcome. And they won’t mess with the presentation, because it works!

In the other offering you have slices of meat hidden away under cabbage with what could be cucumber or aubergine, something green and something unappetisingly unidentifiable. The result is an onset of nausea before you eat, though in the end, come what may, meat is meat and a man must eat!

The Durban July is something like 124 years old, a rock- solid institution uninterrupted by wars, famine, bell-bottoms, men on the moon and fake pandemics. It is South Africa’s Michelin-star racing event, in fact a Michelin star social event that even woke
people and dreamy millennials tend to take note of while they break down statues and wait for the ozone to heal.

A racing scribe once wrote that every race has a “fabric” – a Maiden Plate, a Graduation, a handicap, and then of course a Met or a Summer Cup or a Durban July.

Of all these, the July, over more than one-tenth of a millennium, has formed a “fabric”. You now what you are dealing with, which horses are running, how they are handicapped and how to study form for the race.

Over many years, one learned to associate certain numbers, or brackets of numbers, with a certain type of horse. And, in your mind, you’d form associations of numbers with certain draws. It’s a part of the collective racing brain, arguably a part of a collective mass of people who can read and write (i.e. about 51% of the SA population, which is a majority).

In 2020, the powers that be have created a mishmash of a ‘July’ dish – pieces of fillet hidden under stale leaves with strips of greying cucumber added for a good nauseating effect. We now have numbers and draws which are the same, a mesmerizingly confusing departure from tradition.

Do It Again, who should have been Number 3, is Number 18 (drawn 18), carrying 59,5kg. Golden Ducat (Number 14 in a ‘normal July), is Now number 1, with 53,5kg. Check Vardy, Number 9, 60kg. Let me look for Padre Pio, he should be around number 15. Oh no, he is Number 3!

Add to this the near impossibility of studying form online and you have a recipe for disaster. Scrolling from weight to weight, low to high and high to middle merit ratings and vice versa, and mixed, trying to compare weights. It’s more complicated than a game of Cluedo, and I have a feeling Professor Gold killed everyone in this Circle with a Stirrup Iron, and the murder took place in a Hollywoodbets Lounge!

Please, can someone stand up and say, “This was my decision, my proposal.” Then, can someone else stand up and say, “I approved this!”. Once they’ve owned up, both should be banished to a 20hour flight to Cuba in the close company of the “Tokolosche”, Nkosazana Dklamini-Zuma. While she speaks, for the duration of the 20 hours and without her ‘Kopdoek’, for a prolonged, pungent experience.

You, organisers of our dear July, have turned the Durban July from a Michelin-star dish into something that looks greasier than KFC’s ten piece-box. One can only ask, why. Why, oh, why? What is wrong with you?

There was a guy in town a few years ago. He was FNB’s head honcho, Manny Djordaan or something. His surname was pronounced with a “Dj”, fancy and all. He was very much for innovation and tricks. To open an FNB account online (today still), you have to sing the first two lines of Nkosi Sikelel iafrika, rub your nose twice, blink your left eyelid, enter a password containing Caps, numbers, symbols, algorithms and a hex code backwards and pass a clearly audible belly wind into your webcam’s microphone.

Manny, I think, was also the rocket scientist behind “paperless” banking, a dreaded disease other banks have also caught onto. Imagine “paperless” toilets – this is the way it should be with banks, you can’t have one without the other! So-called innovation may work for a select bunch of spage-age moon calves, but not for the majority of ordinary people!

Similarly, the Vodacom Durban July can’t flourish and stay popular without it’s known, tried and tested “fabric”. Why is this being destroyed? In the name of innovation?

There is a way out. We will all forgive the organisers of the July if they change things back to the old format next year. They can all be forgiven on the count of Covid-19 madness, a bizarre phenomenon which has struck the world, worst here in our Republic.

There is a possibility that the creators of this mess will look at my article and say, “Crazy old bat, screw him.” I hope and pray this does not happen. We’ll forgive and forget, but get it right next year, please guys. Give us our Durban July back, the way it should be!



DISCLAIMER: Turf Talk does not necessarily agree with or endorse the views of guests columnists


  1. I wonder if all the historians and experts that seem to inhabit our wonderful world of the horse can come up with an answer to this conundrum ?
    Has this been done in South Africa ?
    Vernichey the unbeaten dual Group winner of the Gr1 Allan Robertson has interesting building blocks.
    The registered breeder is Klawervlei Stud.
    Sire Vercingetorix bred by Klawervlei Stud
    Dam bred by Klawervlei Stud.
    Broodmare Sire Captain Al bred by Klawervlei Stud.
    Captain Al out of a mare by Klawervlei sire
    Complete Warrior
    What an amazing home baked cake which am sure was enjoyed by Kenneth and Milo Pillay and emerging top trainer Gareth van Zyl.

    An amazing feat, but not surprising !
    Regards Lynton Ryan


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