This Saturday will see crowds flock to Greyville racecourse in South Africa to witness the nation's biggest race of the season - the Vodacom Durban July Handicap.
Durban July selection - SOLID SPEED
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Since the late 1800s, this race has been the highlight of the season, with thousands flocking to the track, and a large social and fashion event has built up around the race. This years favourite is the three year old filly Bela Bela. Trained by Justin Snaith, the Dynasty filly is set to carry bottom weight of 54.5kg, but her task wont be easy against older horses of both sexes in this race, and she will have to be truly exceptional to win here.
An inside draw at Greyville is widely considered to be an advantage over the 11 furlong distance of the Durban July, with the tight turns meaning that outside runners have it tough around the bends. Bela Bela has been lucky in that respect, and will break from stall 3, near the inside rail. Another of the fancied runners, French Navy, has been drawn next to her in stall 4, although his connections were less enthused about the inside draw, arguing that the horses' lack of pace from the stalls could see him trapped behind a wall of runners early on.
The Mike Bass trained Marinaresco is interesting in that connections have forsaken an easier target (the final leg of the Cape Winter Series) in an attempt at the Durban July, but he is a keen going sort who may well run to hard in the early stages of the race from his wide draw (stall 19).
Mike Azzi trains one of the most fancied outsiders in Abashiri, who is best priced 18/1. This three year old Triple Crown winner was apparently very impressive in a racecourse gallop last Thursday, but the horses' massive stride might not be best suited to the tight turns of Greyville. He also has near top weight to shoulder, and must concede weight to all the other three year olds, so it may pay to look elsewhere for the winner.
The horse that caught my eye was the Dean Kannemeyer trained runner Solid Speed.
Solid Speed wins at Greyville
This gelding by Dynasty runs here off the same weight as the three year olds, and can give his trainer back to back wins in the Durban July after last year's victory for Power King. Solid Speed cemented his place in the line up with a recent victory in the BettingWorld 1900 at Greyville, the same race the trainer used to prep last year's winner. Plenty went wrong for him that day, but he did well to win, and should improve in the Durban July. Solid Speed has a good draw in stall 5, and should give his backers a good run for their money at an each way price of 8/1.