This year’s Vodacom Durban July has come and gone. The 2014 renewal provided yet another thrilling finish with Power King prevailing. It was also a historic day for commentator Craig Peters who called the race for a record-breaking third time.
Here’s the piece I did in the build-up to the memorable day.
While the pressure may be on the 18 horses and jockeys running in this year’ Vodacom Durban July there’s another person on track who has just as much pressure on the big day.
When the field for this year’s renewal of the 2 200m race load up at Greyville today it will be up to the eagle eye of commentator Craig Peters to call them home and inform the crowd where their fancies are throughout the running.
This year’s July will be even more memorable for Peters given that it will be the 30th time he calls the field home and in so doing breaks the record held by by legendary race caller and journalist ernie Duffield who managed 29 commentaries of the illustrious race.
“It’s been a fantastic build-up,” Peters, who started his career in 1976 when calling a meeting sponsored funnily enough by The Citizen, said on the eve of his milestone. He’s since called more Durban July’s than this writer has been alive.
But do nerves play a role?
“I would be lying if I said no. The adrenalin always pumps when it comes to the July. The night before there is a bit of nerves, it still gets to you,” he said.
“The crowd hangs onto your every word. It starts from the first race of the day and by the time the big one rolls around in the afternoon the crowd is at fever pitch.”
Peters still attributes his first ever commentary on the Durban July as his most cherished memory when calling Devon Air home as the winner in the 1984 renewal of the race run traditionally on the first Saturday in July.
“It was obviously very special as it was my first. I was nervous as hell,” he chuckled.
A lot goes into preparations for the big day with Peters spending a lot of time studying the race card as well as the silks of each and every runner.
“So much goes into it. If you make a mistake people will call you out.You try be as accurate as possible when calling and that means you have to do your homework during the week,” Peters, who passed on his skill to his son Sheldon a well-known commentator in his own right, said.
“It’s like being a boxer. You can train and study as much as you want but when you get in the ring, or turn that mic, on there’s nobody there to help you. It’s all about your memory and your eye as you look out for things that happen during a race.”