Africa's largest horseracing event, The Vodacom Durban July

Marinaesco and Bernard Fayd’Herbe winning the 2017 Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July at Greyville, picture Liesl King.
Marinaesco and Bernard Fayd’Herbe winning the 2017 Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July at Greyville, picture Liesl King.

Asian Federation member South Africa held its largest race meeting last Saturday, the 121st renewal of the Durban July sponsored by Vodacom at Greyville, and the impact of the meeting was substantial not just on the track, but throughout the KwaZulu-Natal economy.

Some 50,000 patrons packed out Greyville and the infield Marquee Village to watch Candice Bass-Robinson become the first woman trainer to win the R4.25m, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July (2200m) when four-year-old Silvano gelding Marinaesco under Bernard Fayd’Herbe flashed late for the line.

Marinaesco carried the top-weight of 60kg to win holding off the three-year-old challenge from Al Sahem with 53.5kg under S’Mango Khumalo and Edict Of Nantes with 54kg under Anton Marcus with the margins a head and 1/4L. Bass-Robinson also trained Nightingale who was fourth equal with Krambambuli.

Last year Marinaesco was second to The Conglomerate (AUS) with Candice’s father Mike Bass the trainer and Candice his assistant. Bass, a co-owner of Marinaesco, did not renew his licence for the new season and Candice stepped up to run the stable in her own right, but not before Marinasco had won the Grade 1 Mike and Carol Bass Memorial Cup over 1800m at Greyville at the end of the 2016 Champions Season in July.

Greyville’s normal calm outlook over the golf course in the middle of the track was transformed into The Marquee Village.

Over thirty marquees, including three double-decker marquees - a record for the African continent - made up the fabled Village and truck-loads of furniture, catering equipment, sound and lighting gear and decor were set up for each hospitality venue.

New to the event this year was a contemporary lifestyle village close to the Action Stage where spectators and punters enjoyed a range bars catering for raceday drinks alongside a wide variety of foods trucks offering cutting edge food options. The picnic sites once again proved to be very popular.

All this activity meant that the regional economy was set to savour a R260 million injection directly from the raceday.

With the majority of the visitors to the iconic horse racing showpiece travelling in from outside of the province, hotel and bed and breakfast establishments were in high demand, particularly with Durban hosting a number of other high-profile holiday festival events at the same time.
Air travel into and out of Durban peaks over the first weekend in July, fashion retailers do a booming trade, and the popular restaurants and bars in the greater Durban area do their record turnover on the weekend of the Vodacom Durban July.

The projections done by Durban Tourism pointed to an anticipated direct expenditure of participants and spectators to be R133.3 million.
In broader terms, the study projects the total direct economic impact on eThekwini’s GDP to be R259.8 million.

"The Vodacom Durban July promotes Durban and KwaZulu-Natal as a premier event destination not only in South Africa, but globally as well," said Phillip Sithole, the acting DCM, Head of Durban Tourism.

"This hallmark event increases our domestic arrivals, economic spend, as well as increases the tourism contribution to the GDP and creates and sustains jobs for Durban’s citizens," he added.

In addition to this, over R100 million is spent at totes on course and at off-courses totes around the country. The turnover for the day was up some 10% on pre-race budgets.