Anthony Delpech, like all young aspiring jockeys, hoped he would win the Vodacom Durban July one day when he enrolled in the South African Jockeys Academy in 1984, but he has exceeded his own expectations and Ilha Bela could give him a record fifth win in the big race this year and also a record third in a row.
Delpech was pleased with the three-year-old Fort Wood filly’s gallop at Greyville last Thursday and was philosophical about her wide draw of 19.
“We’re very happy with her,” said Delpech of the slightly built grey, who is currently the bookmaker’s 15-2 second favourite.
He added that she had definitely improved since the Woolavington 2000, where she ran on strongly from a hopeless position to finish four lengths adrift of her stablemate Viva Maria.
Delpech was aboard the winner that day and gave her a pearler of a ride, dictating the pace and then stealing a march coming up the hill into the straight.
Anton Marcus was aboard Ilha Bela in the Woolavington, but has switched horses for the July as he is retained by the owner of Vettel, Markus Jooste.
De Kock chose the riders for the rest of his runners and not surprisingly entrusted Delpech with the one from his yard he fancies most to win, Ilha Bela.
Delpech has won the last two runnings of this big race for De Kock with Bold Silvano and the great filly Igugu.
The great trainer will also have his fifth July winner if any of his four runners win on Saturday, but neither this feat nor having three winners in a row would be a July training record.
Delpech said about Ilha Bela’s draw, “The draw is not such a bad thing. She is not a filly who goes up with the pace and she runs on well. The July is usually very rough and she will be away from all the trouble.”
Delpech was born in The Seychelles in 1969 and his family moved to Durban when he was thirteen-years-old.
He compared his aspirations upon joining the Academy to the two records that he stands a chance of breaking on Saturday, “I just wanted to win one July, so it has become like a dream. I don’t think this will happen again in my lifetime.”
Delpech treasures his July wins above any other race he has won in the world.
This is a big statement considering he rode the great Hong Kong horse Vengeance Of Rain to victory in Hong Kong’s biggest race, the Grade 1 Hong Kong Derby, as well as to big money Grade 1 wins in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Hong Kong Champions and Chater Cup, the Hong Kong Cup and the Hong Kong Gold Cup.
“The July is at home and has been very good to me,” he said. “Winning this race gets better and better every time.”
Delpech’s first win was on the David Ferraris-trained three-year-old colt Classic Flag in 1998 and six years later he won it on the De Kock-trained three-year-old colt Grey’s Inn.
It was another six years until he won with another De Kock-trained three-year-old colt Bold Silvano in 2010.
Last year he won with the great De Kock-trained three-year-old filly Igugu and it was not surprising, considering her class and her popularity with the public, that he intimated that this could have been his most special July win.
All three of the colts that Delpech won the July on ended up at stud, indicating that they were also very worthy winners.
Delpech, who has twice been South Africa’s Champion Jockey, holds the record for the most winners in a South African season, 334, and could write another page in the history books on Saturday.