Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire
Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire

Duncan Howells and Tropical Empire

(Photos : Gold Circle)

“First Vodacom Durban July runner for Duncan Howells”

If the Duncan Howells-trained Tropical Empire strikes victory in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July, he will become the first KZN-trained victor since the 1995 win by the Pat Shaw-trained Teal.

David Thiselton writes that Duncan Howells believes that he would know just half of what he knows about racehorses if it wasn’t for the influence of David Payne.

Duncan Howells, who has his first runner in the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday in the form of Tropical Empire, spent many years as David Payne’s assistant. “David was exceptional at preparing horses for big races,” said Howells. “One of the things he taught me was not to push the horse over the edge.”

Duncan Howells’ two Group 1 winners to date had similar betting odds when winning their respective big races as Tropical Empire’s current July price of 13-1.

In May’s Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m, Tropical Empire finished second beating Durban July second favourite River Jetez by a head. He will face her on 3kg better terms on Saturday.

In his last start he easily won the Betting World 1900 (Gr2).

“He’s fit and his blood picture is perfect. We have done everything we can.” said Duncan Howells yesterday.

Speaking about Tropical Empire’s pole position draw, Duncan Howells said “He’s a slight horse and from this draw won’t be knocked around.

“I’ve watched video replays of past Julys and the horses on the rail never turn for home more than five lengths back. There are no horses going backwards at that stage and he has a helluva turn of foot.”

He added that luck in running always played a part in the Vodacom July. Of the dangers Howells said, “I can’t have Kapil and I can’t have River Jetez from that draw. I think we’ve only got Pocket Power to beat.”

Duncan Howells says that Tropical Empire is not feisty, despite still being an entire, and is easy to work with. “He likes to lead the string out in the mornings and gets quite upset if he isn’t in front.”

With the wait after the hard work being a tense time for July connections, Duncan Howells says “I wish Saturday would arrive.”

Tropical Empire is an Australian-bred bay horse by Second Empire and is owned “Chips” Pennels and his wife Elma, together with Gary Westwater and Johan Meyer. Pennels’ only previous July runner was Tandaga, who finished eleventh in 1980.