A crowd in excess of 30 000 watched the 126th renewal of the R5 million Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville in Durban on Saturday.
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According to the Sporting Post website, the 2 200m contest produced a dream result for multiple champion conditioner Mike de Kock and jockey S’manga Khumalo, when Mary Slack’s Silvano filly Sparkling Water gave the boys a hiding.
After two years of Covid-19 induced silence on course, the crowds came back in their numbers after Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s timeous repeal of the restrictions on event attendance at the end of June.
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With new sponsors’ Hollywoodbets grabbing the marketing and promotional baton with zeal, Africa’s greatest horseracing generated shades of its traditional buzz and appeal.
S’manga Khumalo won the Durban July 9 years ago
The 2013 Durban July history-making winning jockey, Wilgerbosdrift-sponsored S’manga ‘Bling’ Khumalo found himself at the centre of a minor sideshow controversy in the build-up when he parted company with his regular dual Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winning mount Jet Dark to take the reins on Sparkling Water, who is owned by his sponsors, Wilgerbosdrift.
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The decision proved on the mark, as Sparkling Water (16/1), the sole member of the fairer sex in the class of 2022, romped clear off a modest pace into the final 300m, to beat Jet Dark (16/1) by 3 lengths in a time of 135.08 seconds and give Mary Slack a first Durban July success, after her parents Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer won it six times in their famed yellow and black strip.
Another De Kock runner, Safe Passage (11/2) was the first three-year-old home in third, a further 0.30 lengths back.
History chasing seven-year-old Do It Again (8/1) led the charge in the latter stages, but was consumed late by the top three.
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Defending champion Kommetdieding (12/1) carried joint top-weight and failed to deliver his blistering late turn of foot, finishing 4.10 lengths off, with late reserve inclusion Airways Law (40/1), a further 1.20 lengths back.
Sparkling Water was Mike de Kock’s third fairer sex victress in the big race after Ipi Tombe (2002) and Igugu (2011) – and his fifth overall.
Sparkling Water has now won 7 races with 8 places from 16 starts for stakes of R4 354 125.