Just one week to go before my favourite day of the sporting calendar and my two favourite races.
It's the running of the Vodacom Durban July and it's also stage 1 of the 2019 Tour de France.
I have been following horse-racing since I was a kid and I can honestly say that the field for the 2019 Durban July is the best I've ever seen. This year's race brings together four champions from three different generations.
4 year olds have won 4 the last 6 Durban Julys and this year sees two outstanding 4 year old champions clash . . . last year's Durban July winner Do It again and the winner of the 2019 Sun Met, Rainbow Bridge. Both are in top form, Do It Again having recently won the Rising Sun Gold Challenge over 1600m where Rainbow Bridge ran 3rd after being baulked in the straight. The July distance of 2200m will suit both horses a lot better and there won't be much between these two.
I have included the 7 year old Legal Eagle as a great champion of his generation but he is getting a bit long in the tooth and has lost a lot of his aura in the last two years . . . still, when you see a great champion with 15 wins actually getting weight from the top 3 year old you have to take notice and if Legal Eagle can roll back the years and show the kind of form of his youth he would be a shoo-in at these weights.
And then there's the star 3 year old, Hawwaam. Hawwaam is quite simply the most sensational horse on South African turf since the great Horse Chestnut and he seems to be on a similar career path . . . having just won the Daily News 2000 in the same kind of facile fashion that Horse Chestnut used to win his races. Hawwaam's merit rating is through the roof and he's recently been rated the 13th best horse in the world, a ranking that could improve significantly if he's exposed to international quality fields . . . as he may well be if he keeps on winning.
In contrast to the Durban July where all the top champions will clash, the Tour de France will be missing some big names this year. Sadly Chris Froome had a terrible crash during for this year's Criterium du Dauphine which has ruled him out of the 2019 Tour de France and considering his age, could even be career ending. Team Ineos (used to be Team Sky) had another fright when last year's Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas crashed during the Tour of Switzerland and could also have missed the Tour but the injury wasn;t as bad as first feared and Thomas is expected to be named in the Ineos team for the Tour when the team is announced in a few day's time.
Tom Dumoulin will unfortunately miss the Tour de France this year with a knee injury while Primoz Roglic and Miguel Angel Lopez both raced in this year's Giro d'Italia so will skip the Tour.
Still, even without a lot of those big names, it should be a great Tour and the fight for the yellow jersey could happen within Team Ineos where Geraint Thomas might be challenged by young Colombian sensation Egan Bernal. Results in the early stages of the Tour could determine who becomes the leader for Team Ineos. Whoever that leader is will also have competition from the in-form Astana rider Jakob Fuglsang; Mitchelton Scott's Adam Yates as well as the evergreen Vincenzo Nibali. Team Movistar are always a threat and I suspect they'll be represented by Nairo Quintana and Mikail Landa.
I'll do a separate preview of the different Tour de France jersey competitions once the teams are finalized.