Horse racing is one of the most prominent sports around the world, but perhaps no country lives and breathes it more so than South Africa. In total, there are 29 Group 1 races that take place in South Africa every year.


Some of these will have specifics on the ages of the horses that are allowed to enter the desired races, while some of the biggest racecourses in the country play host to these events.


Throughout the season, there are huge races that take place at Kenilworth, Turffontein and Scottville. But, which races stand out more than most on the South African calendar?


South African Derby


One of the most anticipated races of the entire season is the South African Derby. The race is a Group 1 affair and takes place at Turffontein every year in April. The race is one of the most prestigious in South Africa as it has been a mainstay on the calendar since 1907, with the first winner being Diana. South Africa’s Derby is run over 2450 metres and is open to three-year-olds.


One of the most prestigious winners of this race was Horse Chestnut, who won the race in 1999. The famous horse was inducted into the South African Equine Hall of Fame last year.


Durban July Handicap


The meeting that takes place in July at Greyville is one of the most exciting of the year in South Africa, and one of the biggest races of that meeting is the Durban July Handicap. It has been a mainstay on the racing calendar since 1897, with the race open to horses of all ages.


Nowadays, the Durban July happens over 2200 metres. Only five horses have been able to win this race on multiple occasions, with the most recent of those being Do It Again, who won consecutive races in 2018 and 2019. Justin Snaith won the 2020 edition of the race on board Belgarion, which marked the third straight success that he has achieved in the race.


Premiers Champion Stakes


Also during the Durban July meeting, the Premier Champion Stakes is run. This is another prestigious race with horses running over 1600 metres. The race is open to horses aged two and over and is once again run at Greyville. The 2019 running of the event highlighted that there is always potential for value, with the winning ride coming in at a price of 9/1 as Got The Greenlight crossed the line first. Other previous winners of the race include Soqrat and Eyes Wide Open.


Premier’s Champions Challenge


The April meeting at Turffontein also plays host to one of the most lucrative races of the year, as there is typically R 4 million up for grabs in the Premier’s Champions Challenge. The race is open to horses of all ages and types and is run over 2000 metres. This race is broadcast around the world, with gamblers often looking to find value in the betting.


However, that hasn’t been the case over the past two years as the favourite has won both instalments. Hawwaam won the most recent running of the event, as he was able to hold off the strong challenge laid down by Soqrat.


This also marked the second straight year that he had won the race for trainer M F de Kock, as he also won the race in 2019. On that occasion, he held off the challenge from Cascapedia. The 2018 winner of the race was Coral Fever for Robbie Sage.


If you like horse racing you might also be interested in the odds for September’s Kentucky Derby. Check them out here:

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