South Africa’s most famous horse race took place at Greyville on Saturday, as 18 of the country’s finest flat racers entered the stalls ahead of the 2021 Durban July. This Grade One handicap boasts a long, storied history, having first been run in 1897 and viewers were treated to another thrilling renewal this weekend.
Got The Greenlight topped the Durban July betting with South African bookmakers for much of the build-up. Joey Soma’s star had finished second to Belgarion the previous season, and two Grade One victories earlier in the year had led to many experts tipping Got The Greenlight to go one better in 2021.
On the day, it was leading three-year-old Linebacker who attracted the most support. Vaughan Marshall’s Cape Derby and Daily News 2000 winner sat second in the market on the morning of the race. Linebacker joined Got The Greenlight at the head of the betting and, as the stalls burst open, Grant Van Niekirk’s mount was the 9/4 solo-favourite.
Linebacker and Got The Greelight both settled down in the midfield, as the expected pacesetters made the running. As the field turned for home, Linebacker was well-placed to challenge. Muzi Yeni, however, was forced widest of all on Got The Greenlight and they had to mount their challenge along the stands’ side rail.
While many focussed on Linebacker, few noticed the serene progress Gavin Lerena had made on fellow three-year-old, Kommetdieding. Despite being handed the widest stall of all, Kommetdieding travelled sweetly throughout the race and hit the front with three furlongs to travel.
Try as they might, neither Linebacker nor Got The Greenlight were able to reel in Lerena’s mount, and Kommetdieding clung on to win the 2021 Durban July by half-a-length.
“Ashwin Reynolds (the winning owner), this is for him.” A jubilant Lerena said to Tellytrack following his victory.
“He would have dreamed to be here today. This one is for him – he’s such a passionate supporter of the game. To all my family – thank you for always having my back and thank you for always being there for me.”
“I was very happy where I was. It was a nice pace. I had a beautiful rhythm – I was three deep but I also had a couple of horses ahead of me. I had a good space. He’s a young horse, and immature horse and I didn’t want him to get knocked around I decided to just let him start slip at the 800m (pole). He really grew under me. He gave me a real good kick this horse and ran all the way to the line – what a racehorse!
Kommetdieding’s win meant Ashwin Reynolds became the first owner of colour to win the Durban July. Reynolds, who spent just R55,000 purchasing this son of Elusive Fort at the sales, spoke to the press remotely soon after his historic victory.
“I am really chuffed to be part of South African history.” Reynolds said. “I was saying to myself ‘Do you really know what you did?’ It is breath-taking. I can’t explain it. You can buy a horse for R10 million or R55,000, it doesn’t matter, because this is what it is all about.”
— Racing Guru (@RacingGuru) July 3, 2021
“From my heart I want to thank the people of the Cape Flats for shouting for this horse and I now hope people will be able to approach trainers to get into this game and enjoy it the way I am.
Michelle Rix, who trains Kommetdieding alongside her father Harold Crawford, was quick to praise Lerena, who shed four kilograms just to take up the ride.
Rix told Tellytrack, “Hats off to Gavin. I phoned him a couple of weeks ago and said ‘Can you do it?’ and he was so professional about it. ‘Give me four days,’ he said. ‘I am going to speak to my dietician’.
“He got back to me on the fourth day and said ‘I will do it’. Let me tell you a more professional jockey doesn’t come around too often,”
“Kommetdieding has only been racing for twelve months, this is his seventh race. After his first four starts in Cape Town which were scintillating we knew he would be something special.”
Image Courtesy: www.thesouthafrican.com