Last Sunday, South Africans celebrated their dads on Father’s Day. So perhaps it’s fitting to pay tribute to the dads in this year’s Vodacom Durban July, South Africa’s oldest and most glamorous horse race, which takes place on Saturday.
After all, almost every horse in this prestigious race is the progeny of fathers who have been past July winners or racing champions in their own right.
Most of these fathers, or sires, are South African. If not, their offspring have been bred locally, which makes the July a proudly South African event.
For instance, this year’s hot favourite, Legal Eagle, is the son of Greys Inn, who won the July in 2004.
Last year’s winner, Legislate, is the son of Dynasty, who won the July in 2003 and went on to sire multiple champions and Equus Award winners. Another son, Futura, winner of this year’s Queen’s Plate and J&B Met, is being touted as a possible winner on Saturday. Dynasty’s two other sons – Dynastic Power and Dynamic – form part of the July field.
2003 July winner Dynasty and son Legislate, who won last year's Durban July.
The July winner in 2013, Heavy Metal, and 2010 victor, Bold Silvano, are the sons of German-bred champion, Silvano, who stands at stud in the Western Cape. His sons, Power King, Tellina, Punta Arenas, Ice Machine and Hot Ticket will also line up for the July.
German-bred Silvano with 2013 July winner Heavy Metal (top right) and 2010 July winner Bold Silvano (bottom)
The late Jet Master, one of South Africa’s greatest equine athletes, passed on his prodigious talent to his sons, Pomodoro, who won the July in 2012 and “The People’s Champion”, Pocket Power, who shared July honours in a pulsating dead heat in 2008. Another son, Helderberg Blue, is also a July runner.
SA champion Jet Master and 2008 July winner, Pocket Power (top) and 2012 July winner, Pomodoro (bottom)
So it’s not hard to see that breeding is key in producing a winner. Robert Garner, general manager of publishing at Phumelela, which manages horse racing in Gauteng, says: “Breeding is a huge element in a horse’s make-up. Parents pass on their individual abilities to their progeny, so family lineage is very important in making a champion.”
Who does he think is the best-bred horse in this year’s July? “Legal Eagle,” he says without hesitation.
Will the son of Greys Inn power to victory in Africa’s richest horse race like his father did 11 years ago, or will a son – or even a daughter – of another champion reign supreme? This question will be answered in emphatic style when the big race day arrives at Greyville Racecourse on Saturday.