South Africa is getting ready to host its celebrated horse racing event, the Durban July Handicap. The country’s premier showcase, it’s South Africa’s equivalent of Britain’s Royal Ascot. Queen Elizabeth has even visited the track on multiple occasions!
The event was first held in 1897 and has since become an annual occurrence every July. The media buildup and fan anticipation starts months in advance, and 2022 is no different. This year’s edition will be held on July 2, 2022, with the site being the usual Greyville. Here’s the skinny on South Africa’s most popular horse racing event.
The History of the Durban July Handicap
The race goes all the way back to the 19th century, with the first race being just 1 mile long (approximately 1,600m). In the modern version of the event, the distance sits at 2,200m.
The race has had some historic moments, with legendary names like Anton Marcus and Harold “Tiger” Wright achieving horse racing immortality at Durban. In 2017, Candice Bass-Robin made history as the first female trainer to take home the victory. And just last year, Ashwin Reynolds was the first black owner to win with Kommetdieding.
The race isn’t just a sporting event, but it has also become one of South Africa’s most prestigious social events. Celebrities, politicians, and other leading figures adorning the large crowds who attend the race.
Preview of the 2022 Edition
The race is largely defined by the annual theme, with this year pushing the “Show Me The Honey” vibe. Think big flowers, bees, and that sweet golden nectar! The theme tends to bring out South Africa’s creative side, not least because of the many prizes given away to the best-dressed guests. Expect plenty of glitz, glamor, and high-end fashion on display!
Of course, you don’t have to be amongst the wealthiest members of society to attend. For a general gate attendance, the cheapest option available, you will have to shell out R230, which equates to just under $15 USD. The 2022 edition is the first where South Africans can perhaps feel a complete return to a sense of normality, with full crowds expected and encouraged to attend. The organizers are pulling out all the stops to ensure a full experience, with the traditional high quality horse racing accompanied by leading musicians, a wide range of food and drink options, and a mixture of entertainment options.
Who Will Win?
This year’s purse sits at a mouth-watering R4.25 million. The level of interest from the sports betting industry is reaching fever pitch, with fans and pundits alike doing in-depth analyses to guess 2022’s champion.
No matter the sport, the likely winner can usually be found by analyzing the opinion of the leading sportsbooks. Even the slightest mistake in setting the odds can cost companies millions, so it’s always better to refer to the odds than the so-called experts on television!
Horse racing is almost synonymous with gambling and has been since the sport’s inception. The industry is worth over $100 billion annually, putting horse racing third, sitting behind the juggernauts of sports: football (soccer) and the NFL. In South Africa, gamblers tend to go with local sportsbook sites, as these sites offer the widest range of bets on a given race as well as the best promos and bonuses.
In this year’s edition, pundits are already putting the crown on Safe Passage, with the odds agreeing: Mike De Cock is the current favorite at 10/3. But don’t rule out Linebacker or Pomp and Power, with odds of 6/1. Closely following is Sparkling Water (Safe Passage’s stablemate) at 7/1.
Bettors all over the world are pouring in significant amounts to see one of these four win. But for the casual punter, where’s the fun in going for the favorite? For the mode adventurous, there’s always Zapatillas at 16/1 or Bar at 25/1.
If you still believe last year’s race has any bearing, then it may be worth going with 2021’s winner and becoming part of ‘Team Kommetdieding’. Of course, keep in mind that only five horses have won back-to-back titles in the entire history of the Durban July Handicap. The last one to do it was aptly named, with ‘Do It Again’ achieving the double in 2018 and 2019.
What Other Races does South Africa Offer?
If the Durban July Handicap leaves you wanting more, South Africa can oblige. The Summer Cup in Johannesburg is the country’s oldest race, and it takes place in November. It also calls one of the country’s oldest track home, the Turffontein. What it doesn’t have in facilities it offers in nostalgia, history, and memorable races instead.
The Sun Met in Cape Town is known as one of the richest races anywhere, drawing a significant purse and equally wealthy visitors. Taking place in January, the Kenilworth Race Course can host up to 50,000 visitors.