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The Hollywoodbets Durban July Final Field Announcement And Draw Ceremony was hosted by the sponsor at their Umhlanga offices and they put on a fine show, concise and too the point.
There were a number of talking points.
Rachel Venniker has landed the ride on the Joe Soma-trained WSB SA Classic winner Red Saxon (Red Ray), who drew 14. She will become the first woman to ride in the July.
Red Saxon also provides a first July runner for owner Solly Bhana’s family. He has been owning horses since 1968.  
Twice Durban July-winning jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe will fly in from Mauritius to ride the twice L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winner Jet Dark (Trippi), who drew 9.
The latter is one of five runners for Justin Snaith who will be attempting to win the July for the sixth time.
One of Snaith’s runners, former winner Belgarion (Dynasty), who drew 11, was due to have his official July gallop at Summerveld this morning because he only arrived from Cape Town this week. It will be recorded and shown at Hollywoodbets Greyville at the official gallops tomorrow morning.
Belgarion provides the legendary Piere Strydom with a comeback ride and he will be attempting to join Anton Marcus as the only jockey to win five Julys.
Marcus is out injured and has not taken a ride this year. 
Snaith’s other runners, twice winner Do It Again (Twice Over),  Pomp And Power (Vercingetorix) and Hoedspruit (Legislate) drew 2, 8 and 3. 
July-winning jockey S’Manga Khumalo, who is Jet Dark’s regular rider, will be aboard another strongly fancied horse he regularly partners, the Mike de Kock-trained Sparkling Water (Silvano). She drew 12 and is the only female horse in the race.
De Kock will be going for a fifth July and has a strong hand in the race.
His four runners include the favourite Safe Passage (Silvano), who will be ridden by his Daily News 2000-winning jockey Muzi Yeni from draw 10.
Sparkling Water is joint-third favourite. 
De Kock also has Aragosta (Rafeef, drawn 1) and Al Muthana (Deep Field, (drawn 16) who are 14/1 and 17/1 respectively.
Callan Murray, who rides Al Muthana, arrives from Australia on Monday. 
Airways Law (Legislate) was left out of the top 18 and made the first reserve. This attracted considerable debate because he won the Grade 3 Cup Trial, which is listed in the conditions as one of the three races whose winner is given “preferential consideration for inclusion in the final field.”
Owner Ashwin Reynolds was present to draw on behalf of reigning champion Kommetdieding (Elusive Fort) and the connections were happy with barrier position 13. He won from the extreme outside draw of 18 last year.
Twice July-winning owner Marsh Shirtliff was also present. He owns Pomp And Power (Vercingetorix) together with Greg Bortz and Etienne Braun.
Richard Fourie rides Pomp And Power and will be attempting to win a fourth July.
Fourie rode Aragosta to win the WSB SA Derby and he is replaced by champion jockey elect Warren Kennedy.
Champion trainer elect Paul Peter’s charge Astrix (Vercingetorix), will be ridden by JP van der Merwe.
Sean Tarry will be going for a third July and his charge Flying Carpet (Judpot), who has drawn last year’s winning barrier position of 18, will be ridden by Calvin Habib.
Tarry’s Nebraas (Vercingetorix) is the second reserve.
Super-sub Raymond Danielson will be aboard Puerto Manzano (Seek Again), who was ridden to victory by Keagan de Melo in the Grade 3 Jubilee Stakes.
De Melo will be aboard three-year-old Waterberry Lane (Soft Falling Rain), the charge of three times-July winning trainer Dean Kannemeyer. He runs in the colours of recently late Mike Rattray, whose life long dream was to win this race.   
Last year’s Vaughan Marshall-trained half-a-length runner up Linebacker (Captain Of All) has drawn well in four as opposed to seven last year and Grant van Niekerk is up again.
Luyolo Mxothwa retains the ride on the Brett Crawford-trained Zapatillas (Master Of My Fate) and this 17/1 shot has drawn 6.
Kabelo Matsunyane will be aboard the rank outsider Second Base (Gimmethegreenlight), who has drawn 15.
Picture Credit: Candiese Lenferna Photography