ILHA BELA, currently second favourite for the Durban July, is out to become only the fifth three-year-old filly to win since the race was first run in 1897.
Peerless, a three-year-old, was the first female to take the honours in 1903 followed by Margin in 1916, Collet in 1922, Eunomea in 1923 and Moosme in 1926. It was not until 1951 that a female won again with Gay Jane bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of female punters.
Migraine was the next to score for the ladies in 1957 followed by Diza for Frank and Jane Lambert in 1962. More than 20 years then elapsed before the next female winner – Tecla Bluff in the colours of Sydney Press in 1983. Tecla Bluff was trained by Terrance Millard, who scored with a female runner again a year later when Devon Air led from start to finish for the Scott brothers.
There followed a long drought for the females that was broken by Ipi Tombe in 2002. She was the first three-year-old filly to win the July since Migraine 45 years earlier. Then in 2008 grey Dancer’s Daughter deadheated with Pocket Power in an epic finish.
Ilha Bela is the only three-year-old filly in this year’s race and there are only two other female runners – four-year-old Beach Beauty and five-year-old mare Gorongosa.