The 15th running of the Dundee July was held on August 14, 2021 with added fanfare after the Covid-19 pandemic saw the 2020 edition of this crowd favourite event having to be cancelled.
SportPesa and Ithotho were once again at the forefront of support and sponsorship for the iconic showpiece event of the rural horse racing calendar.
The Dundee July attracted over 20,000 spectators in 2018 and is widely regarded as the crown in the rural horse racing calendar, but the growth in the event started from very modest beginnings.
The origin story goes that people would gather socially to race their horses, enjoy traditional Zulu festivities and dancing, and feast on chickens brought along for slaughter on the day.
The meetings had no official start times or formal regulations and became known as the ‘Chicken Races’ in honour of the meal shared by all the attendees. The races took place on gravel roads and the informal nature of the races caused some concerns for the welfare of the horses involved.
Recognition and Improvements
In 2005, the government recognised the sport and began investing in the growth of rural horse racing via the Department of Sport and Recreation, and the Dundee July was established. Massive strides were made every year to continuously innovate, and improve aspects such as safer racing conditions, the introduction of official betting in 2010, added attractions such as fashion shows and the event; all of which helping the Dundee July’s growth in popularity.
Community gatherings and Festivities
People will travel from far and wide across the area surrounding the Dundee track to watch the Dundee July. Festivities for the big day get going on the Friday preceding race day with a public parade of some of the competing horses in front of the Endumeni Municipal offices in the afternoon.
The procession has a lively street carnival feel as vibrant traditional Zulu dancing meets the flavours of a Brazilian street carnival full of music, bright colours and celebrations that bring Dundee to a standstill.
The events on race day continue where the street parade left off with marquee tents hosting visitors, dealer stands provide to the crowds while local celebrities, jockeys and the main stars, the horses, all partake in an afternoon of pure racing pleasure.
Vincent de Spéville, Managing Director of SportPesa South Africa, speaking on behalf of SportPesa and Ithotho said: “Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, SportPesa and Ithotho are very happy to see the return of the Dundee July in 2021, and to be part of it.”
“SportPesa has always associated itself with the development of sport, from grassroots to elite level. Through its sister brand, Ithotho, and the latter’s own involvement in Standardbred Rural Horseracing, the organisation hopes to continue contributing to the Dundee event and to the industry in years to come.”
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