Durban July Facts and Figures

horse racing

Horse Racing. Image by Jeff Kubina

Whereas speculating with Johannesburg property is a past-time of the land locked wealthy, it is Durban that attracts the glitz and glamour of fashion designers, celebrities and racing enthusiasts from all over South Africa. The Durban July is definitely the most anticipated horse race event in South Africa. It’s held once a year in Durban, KwaZulu Natal at the Greyville race tracks. Horses of all ages can join and the betting that’s done during this period is at a scale that keeps increasing every year: indeed, some betters bet amounts that could be fetched by a Mercedes Benz S class for sale.

The races first began in 1897 on the first Saturday of every July. Over the years, the winning purse kept growing to its current total prize money of R2.5 million (about US$ 360,000). In the first year, it was called the Durban Winter Handicap but the name was changed after 30 years later to the Durban July Handicap. In the middle of World War II, the race name reverted back to the original but was changed once more when the war was over back to its second name.

By 1963, the races changed name again to the Rothmans July Handicap because Rothman was the main sponsor. Rothman International is a British tobacco company whose primary products are Dunhill and Rothmans. By 1980, the races became known simply as the Rothman July until the year 2000 when it was given its current name. Most South Africans still call the event by this name even if by 2002, Vodacom came in and replaced Rothman as the main sponsor, naming it the Vodacom Durban July.

In the first race in 1897, there were only 7 horses. However, by 1917 an incredible 33 horses were running. This has now been reduced to a safer 20 horses per race.

This year, 2012, a theme has been decided upon by Vodacom: it is going to be “A Material World” and already the plans have been drawn up to include fabulous pre-race day side shows like the following:

The Gold Circle Young Designer Award 2012

Don’t buy boots online just yet: many people see the Durban July as much as a fashion event as a horse race. The Young Designer fashion competition is open only to student residents of Durban and nearby areas. No one from other provinces will be allowed to join the main competition, only the Fashion Challenge. Entries should relate to the theme and be ready for viewing by June 5. There will be 10 finalists who will each get R2000, and the overall winner will receive an additional R2000.

The Gold Circle Fashion Challenge 2012

This competition is open to all designers from South Africa except for young designer students who qualify for the Young Designer Award. The challenge is to create a complete ensemble for Race day. There will be 10 finalists chosen based on their storyboards, and their designs must work around the theme of this year’s event.

Other fun events before or during the Durban July include: Invited Designer Showcase; competition on Classic Racewear; Most Striking Couple; Extraordinary Raceday Hat; and Avant Garde.

Clearly, the Durban July is not just about horses and races but also about dressing up and competing with everyone else for a share of the spotlight. Many eyes will be trained on their TV sets and many people will be at the race track on July 7 in person to take in the sights and sounds of the event. Bear in mind that being able to create a buzz about your outfit from among all the thousands of people would be a major feat and accomplishment.