Racing News 4.7.2014 05:24 am

Kurt Grunewald: Unsung hero of the Durban July

Greyville racecourse's track manager Kurt Grunewald speaks to The Citizen about the courses readiness for the Durban July taking place on Saturday 5 July 2014 during a one on one interview on the track in Durban, 03 July 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Greyville racecourse's track manager Kurt Grunewald speaks to The Citizen about the courses readiness for the Durban July taking place on Saturday 5 July 2014 during a one on one interview on the track in Durban, 03 July 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The cameras will click as the winning horse crosses the line and will document the beaming smiles of the winning jockey and the connections. 

But one of the unsung heroes of the day will remain out of the spotlight and instead of being near the winners enclosure, track manager at Greville Racecourse, Kurt Grunewald will linger near his office in the grandstand.

Along with a team of 19 staff members, Grunewald has been hard at work to ensure that the racing surface for tomorrow’s Grade One event, one of the jewels in South African horseracing’s crown, is ready to handle the rigours.

“The goal is to give the best possible surface to the guys to race on and to get the best racing out of the horses,” Grunewald said near the venue’s finishing line yesterday. “And to make sure it looks pleasing to the eye,” he quipped.

Greyville racecourse's track manager Kurt Grunewald poses for a picture on the newly constructed Polytrack following a one on one interview with The Citizen in Durban, 03 July 2014, ahead of the Durban July which takes place on Saturday 05 July 2014. The Polytrack is a synthetic race surface which provides for more control on turf conditions for riding and is being introduced for the first time at this year's Durban July race. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Greyville racecourse’s track manager Kurt Grunewald poses for a picture on the newly constructed Polytrack following a one on one interview with The Citizen in Durban, 03 July 2014, ahead of the Durban July which takes place on Saturday 05 July 2014. The Polytrack is a synthetic race surface which provides for more control on turf conditions for riding and is being introduced for the first time at this year’s Durban July race. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The installation of a synthetic racing surface at the venue means that the turf track has been trimmed slightly and can now accommodate a maximum field of 16 runners as opposed to 20 in the past.

But the fact that the new Polytrack surface will be used in four of the events on the 12-race card has meant that the turf strip will take less of a pounding, a factor that Grunewald admitted that it results in a little less stress.

“In the past couple of seasons, when the track was the full width we used to run two false rails on the bend on the day. We’d set up the first rail fairly wide for the first six races and then the July itself would be the first race on the fresh strip,” Grunewald said.

“That’s where the racecourse takes the most punishment is on the bend. We’re down to what would be a normal race card of eight races so it does take the pressure off a bit.

Preparations are in full swing for the Durban Vodacom July handicap that will take place at the Greyville race course in Durban on Saturday the 5 of July 2014, Thousands of fashinistas, celebraties and punters are expected to converge in Durban Greyville race course for one of the biggest horse races in the country.  Picture Phumlani Thabethe

Preparations are in full swing for the Durban Vodacom July handicap that will take place at the Greyville race course in Durban on Saturday the 5 of July 2014, Thousands of fashinistas, celebraties and punters are expected to converge in Durban Greyville race course for one of the biggest horse races in the country.
Picture Phumlani Thabethe

In the past there has been a perception that horses drawn wide on the pear-shaped course have done badly in the July but Grunewald believes that it’s not the case with the track running fair across it’s 19m width.

“Guys have perceptions but fortunately they win from all sides. That’s the nice thing when the horses are winning down the inside, outside and centre which happened last year.”

“That’s probably one of the hardest things to do on a natural surface is to get it running even and fair across the width,” he said.

While not a betting man, the question of who he thinks will storm home in this year’s 117th renewal was unavoidable.

“It’s an open race but I think maybe Rakes Chestnut,” Grunewald said.

Follow @CitiReporter on twitter to follow the 2014 Durban July.

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