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Grant van Niekerk shrugs off negative 2018 Durban July Handicap criticism

Jockey Grant van Niekerk will ride 2018 Durban July Handicap favourite African Night Sky on Saturday
Van Niekerk discusses chances of Durban July favourite
Grant van Niekerk will ride Durban July Handicap favourite African Night Sky this Saturday. (RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)
The 2018 Durban July Handicap is just around the corner and leading jockey Grant van Niekerk has opened up about the pressures of riding the favourite in South Africa's biggest thoroughbred horse race.

18 of the best horses will line up for the prize on July 7 and current 3.20 favourite African Night Sky has been confidently backed in the market, but van Niekirk has had to respond to harsh criticism throughout the week. Looking to focus solely on the task at hand, van Niekerk will carry plenty of betting pressure from the public.

"I just try to ignore what everyone else is saying and in particular to ignore any negativity. There are a lot of negative comments going around about me riding African Night Sky," Niekerk told Gold Circle. "I tell myself to try and be confident. The more confidence you can bring into a race the better the result. It’s always like that."

African Night Sky has been tipped to win the 2018 Durban July Handicap by many top punters and van Niekerk is all too aware of what's at stake at Greyville on Saturday. 

"I just try to ignore what everyone else is saying and in particular to ignore any negativity," van Niekerk said. "There are a lot of negative comments going around about me riding African Night Sky at the moment including that nonsense on Winning Ways. I concentrate on cutting out all that. And in the race I don’t worry about the next person, I just ride my own race. Me and my horse are what matters.

"African Night Sky is a straightforward ride but he has to be given a chance. He likes to be ridden confidently as well so you need luck in running.  I am going to switch him off but I am also going to try and sit closer because I know there is not going to be much pace on."

The confidence in African Night Sky has been recorded in the market. The Justin Snaith-trained runner opened at 4.50 in fixed odds markets and has since firmed steadily as the great race approaches.


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