The final port of call

After months of anticipation the 119th running of the Vodacom Durban July will attract a capacity crowd to Greyville Racecourse for a day of fashion, thrilling horse-racing, socialising and celebrity spotting against a nautical backdrop set by the theme “The Captain’s Table”. The excitement will reach fever pitch shortly before 4:30pm when the expanded field of 18 runners thunders down the home straight in an effort to be first past the finishing post and then led into the winners enclosure to a heroes welcome.

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Since the full ambit of betting opened on Monday there has been widespread interest in the final field, with five horses enjoying most of the punters attention – early favourite Legal Eagle, Australian bred Majmu, French Navy, Futura, and the horse that finished first last year, only to be relegated to second after a protest was upheld, Wylie Hall.

Over R100 million is expected to be paid out in winning bets, and the spend on betting on course and off-course will top R220 million, with the French tote formally co-mingling with the local tote for the main race for the first time.

The Vodacom Durban July itself contributes over R220 million in direct spend into the local economy, most of which eminates from the Gauteng visitors who drive down for the weekend, making up more than half of the 55 000 strong crowd at Greyville Racecourse, and contributing over R150 million just through transport, accommodation, tickets, entertainment, restaurants and clothing for the Vodacom Durban July.

It is a boom time for the fashion industry as thousands of racegoers seek to make an impression with their raceday garments.

The fashion programme that runs in parallel with the Vodacom Durban July has produced a breathtaking spectacle in the two competitions and the signature Vodacom Durban July Invited Designer Showcase presented by Durban Fashion Fair that have enthralled fashion lovers in the months leading up to the Vodacom Durban July.

The national Vodacom Durban July Fashion Challenge started with a large submission of storyboards, from which ten finalists were selected to make up their garments for the finals. For the student designers the process was more protracted as they went through an initial judging that saw over a hundred completed outfits shortlisted to twenty semi-finalists and then ten finalists.

With an ultimate prize of a business class trip on Delta Air Lines to the New York Fashion Week for the winning student, there is much at stake. The judging was done at the final Vodacom Durban July Fashion Experience show, and the results sealed in envelopes, to be revealed on the Action Stage close to the finish post, on Vodacom Durban July day.

For many fashionistas the raceday fashion competitions offer  a chance to revel in the glare of the media spotlight. With big prizes up for grabs, the Most Striking Couple, Classic Racewear for Men and Women and the Exceptional Raceday Hat or Fascinator attract hundreds of fashionistas to the preliminary judging on the track at 9:30am.

The build-up to the main race will include a display of the massed pipes and drums of the Durban Military Tattoo that will bring the crowd to its feet for the national anthem before the Vodacom Durban July gets under way at 4:20pm.

The event will feature numerous milestones, one of which is in the commentary booth high in the main grandstand where Craig “Eagle Eye” Peters will be calling his 30th Vodacom Durban July, extending his own record at the famous horse race. His partnership with his son Sheldon as a race-calling father-and-son duo is recognised world-wide.

The raceday will also bring down the curtain on the careers of two stalwart judges of the racing fraternity, Warren Eisele and Colin Buckham who will retire after spending over four decades officiating from the judges box.

Off the track, the spotlight will focus on the many celebrities and personalities that are drawn to the race every year. Many will be guests of the major corporates and sponsors in suites and marquees, including cabinet ministers, television and movie stars, sporting icons, top-end fashion designers, beauty queens and models and captains of industry.

At many of the lavish infield marquees the who’s-who of the domestic entertainment industry will perform to the partying crowds, including smash hit duo Mafikizolo, Uhuru, Cassper Nyovest, Aka and well known DJs like DJs Fresh, Tira and Black Coffee.

In an effort to alleviate congestion and make the day easier for racegoers to manage, the new Park and Ride option based at the old Durban Drive In site will be well utilised, as will the new Racing Bus option that will transport Vodacom Durban July fans from Pietermaritzburg and the Upper Highway area, North and South Coast to the race and back.

The 2015 Vodacom Durban July takes place at Greyville Racecourse on Saturday 4 July. More information can be found atwww.vodacomdurbanjuly.co.za