where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2018-07-08 09:46:04  
July Jocks: What were they thinking?

The pace of the July was a massive bone of contention as the race was run at a common canter in what was a farce for South Africa's premier Group 1 event.

There was an initial delay for around 15 minutes as the starting stalls had given issues with some gates not opening with the automated system. The starter had to revert to the system known as manual release. Horses played up in that time and many were not comfortable with the delay. The plus side was that the pools swelled in those minutes as millions were poured onto the tote to bulk up the dwindling turnovers racing is currently experiencing.

The race was a joke of a pace from the get go as White River pulled the arms off his jockey and was visibly sweating on the shoulder. It was a disaster run for the Crawford inmate who many fancied for the win including some of the countries top form students. By the 1400m pole top jock Jeff Lloyd was fed up and made his own pace with Made To Conquer who was in the lead past the 1200m until jockey Grant Van Niekerk went for the "hero or zero" tactics in his effort to increase the pace by running around the field from his midfield position, 5 or so length off, to take up the running. He was in front at the 1000m pole and ready to pull the trigger. Not many horses can win with those tactics and by the straight, the horse looked well beaten but ended up staying in for 5th. Possibly not the best tactics from the Hong Kong bound rider, but he may argue that he could have finished further back had he not done so.

Meanwhile the Kzn Guineas winner, Do It Again was warming to the task as a sprint finish as in the offing. Made To Conquer was leading by the 350m mark in what was a superb run from the Lloyd mount, a horse that is completely unsuited to the slow pace and needs further. He ran on with guts and glory but found the Marcus ridden Do It Again winding up on the outside of him. Marcus strode clear by the 200m pole and was a winner a long way out even though still fending off Lloyd's mount. Do It Again had plenty in hand. Sadly the Kuda sponsored Lloyd didn't get his July win but had his best result in a race that he has never won, prior to his imminent retirement. It was one of his last rides at Greyville as well.

Do It Again was expertly ridden and trained by Snaith Racing. It was Anton Marcus's fifth Durban July. He is a top jock and rode them to sleep today. Marcus had done a lot of hard work prior to his comeback from a broken wrist including specialized diets, hyperbaric chamber time and daily evening jogs in his hometown Umhlanga suburb, were he was spotted on numerous occasions. He deserves his success.

Sadly the triple crown star, Abashiri broke down in the straight with a strained tendon but when the dreaded green curtains arrived in front of the 50 000 watching crowd and millions on TV everyone thought the worst. The industry sighed collectively in relief as Abashiri survived the day and was shuttled back to Summerveld for further examination after much coaxing to get into the horse trailer.

Some of the jockeys in the July need some serious introspection as they analyze their race riding and the tactics employed. There will be much critical review done on this July, possibility one of the worst tactical performances by the collective jockey group in modern times. A race is a dynamic event and no one jockey can take all the blame as the pace is set by one and followed by others, some are restricted by trainer instructions whilst others take the initiative and do their own thing. It isn't positive to be critical of sports performances, but as with any highly paid and professional athletes, we have the right to question.  

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