BERNARD Fayd’Herbe, South Africa’s top high weight rider, is without a mount in the 2019 renewal of the Vodacom Durban July, but having ridden at least a third of the field in races or in work he’s arguably the man with the best idea of which horse will come out tops.

Bernard was on standby for Hawwaam until Anton Marcus made his choice, which means that he will have to wait until next year to have a chance of riding his own third July winner, but being on the sideline for once has given him a fresh perspective on the race.

From what we’ve seen just in reports in this publication over the last few years, Bernard is a very good judge and his first impressions were, “This is a great renewal with some great horses, there are at least six with clear winning chances and I think it will be a messy race, a lot will depend on tactics.”

First up, from the top down, is Do It Again, who gets an immediate compliment with Bernard saying, “He is a champion, a really top horse and definitely up there with the very best I’ve ridden. He has everything in his favour except the fact that he has to give a chunk of weight away to the high quality three-year-olds. Still, I’d say what beats him will win.”

On to Rainbow Bridge, on which Bernard has won twice, and he said: “Another top horse, has the ability to win it. In Cape Town he hung out, in Durban he has been hanging in, I don’t know why but he’ll be right there, whatever happens.”

Hawwaam, he thinks, will come out best of the three-year-olds, but by a narrow margin. “Hawwaam has that big turn of foot and he can get away from them at Greyville, which is the biggest factor in is favour. I haven’t ridden him, but from what we all have seen he is exceptionally good, Anton has chosen to ride him and at the weights they can win it.”

He said of Hawwaam’s stablemate Barahin: 

“I can tell you this is a super horse, I agree with Mike de Kock that he is from the top drawer and I know he was just below his peak when beaten by Hawwaam, so he will get closer. My concern is that he is sluggish off the mark and in this company that can be crucial. You can’t really leave him alone in a race, he has to contest it and if luck goes his way and he gets going in time, he’s a serious runner. But I’ll still side with Hawwaam.”

Twist Of Fate is one of the best outsiders in the race. He’s another exceptionally good three-year-old and he falls perfectly into the category that produces July winners with great regularity – well-weighted three-year-olds.

Bernard commented: “At the risk of sounding monotonous, we have another top horse here and I will tell you what is in his favour – he is an easy ride, an individual you can place where you want, he does what you want him to do and he is talented to boot. His 17 draw doesn’t worry me, the July honour roll shows you can win the July from a wide draw, there is time in the back straight to get a position. Don’t discard Twist Of Fate, he’s a serious runner!”

Down the field, to Eyes Wide Open, and Bernard assessed: “Another horse with much ability, drawn wide too but not out of it. He is back to his best at the right time, well-bred and with a handy weight, he’s one of the dark horses for me.”

Two more on the list and Bernard said: “I give Made To Conquer an upset chance. Some say he hasn’t got the class but I’d disagree, if you look at the weight turnaround from last year’s race he will win it, he is 6kg better off with Do It Again for a 1,25-length beating. You can’t ignore him.”

Lastly, there is Miyabi Gold, Justin Snaith’s Silvano filly and Bernard commented: “She’s a nice filly, the type who can flash up into the Quartet off her low weight.”

Asked to put his head on the block, Bernard, like most of us, is baffled with the quality of this year’s race and he said: “I cannot split Do It Again and Hawwaam, I think one of them will win but I cannot say which one!”

His advice for 2019: “I’d say play Places, as much as you can, you can even play five or six horses to run a place, they pay out on the first six and you can have a 28-1 shot like Made To Conquer or Twist Of Fate at 12-1 easily run in the first six and at least double your money. The place bets on July day return good dividends. If I was a punter, I’d focus on this. Don’t be a hero and try to back an outright winner, play places on a few and win!”