Danie Toerien: One would expect Joe Soma to be a bundle of nerves before the running of the Vodacom Durban July: he will, after all, be saddling the favourite on Saturday.
The charismatic trainer is, however, loving every minute of it.
“We’ve got the favourite for the July. We have to enjoy it,” he said, bubbling with excitement.
“We’ve been dreaming about this moment for a long, long time, many years, so we have reason to be in a good mood heading into the July. We have a chance.”
Soma is of course the trainer of Got The Greenlight, last year’s runner-up and the bookmakers’ favourite to go one better this year at 5-2.
“Our preparations have gone off very, very well,” said Soma. “We’ve had a trouble-free preparation. Thank goodness.
“With his last three starts, there’s always been rain or something that resulted in a stop-start preparation. This time round he’s had two very good grass gallops. He’s doing very well and he’s in a very good space.”
The fact that he is Soma’s only runner in Durban on Saturday was not done intentionally in order to focus all their efforts on Got The Greenlight.
“There isn’t much else on the day that I felt I wanted to go for,” explained Soma. “I’ve never gone down for something that’s not there.”
Got The Greenlight
Going down to Greyville is by now probably a familiar journey for Got The Greenlight. He has gone down to the venue three times where he has recorded two wins and a second-place finish.
According to Soma, jockey Muzi Yeni is equally optimistic about Got The Greenlight.
“Muzi has done a lot of work with the horse as well over the last two months. We all feel the horse has definitely improved.
“He’s matured exceptionally well. He seems to be getting better and better all the time.”
According to Soma, his record goes to show what a good horse he really is.
“To win at two, and then to mature into a lovely three-year-old and winning two Group 1s as well as finishing second in the July and third in the Derby, is remarkable.
“As a four-year-old he seems to be reaching his very best. He’s already won two Group 1s as a four-year-old.
“He’s obviously getting stronger with maturity. Muzi can feel it in his work, and I can see it in his times.”
The July is arguably the most difficult race on the local calendar to win, and Soma is under no illusion that he already has it in the bag.
“The July is a very hard race to win, and one must have the utmost respect for all the runners,” he said.
“There are many champions in it this year. Rainbow Bridge, Do It Again as a two-time winner, last year’s winner Belgarion, and of course the three-year-olds, especially Linebacker. We have the utmost respect for all of them.”
Like most racegoers, Soma will be keeping one eye on the action at Turffontein on Saturday as well, where he has three runners doing duty – Happy And Glorious, Great Warrior, and African Adventure.
“Our three runners up here all have solid each-way chances,” said Soma.