Mike de Kock enters Saturday’s Dubai World Cup meeting with a select team of two headed by Mubtaahij (IRE), runner-up in last year’s $10 million Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates.
He is joined on the card by the talented but thus far wayward Fawree (USA) , who will hope to emulate his illustrious stable companion by winning the Group 2 UAE Derby sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Runner-up on his racecourse debut, in a 1400m maiden on the Meydan dirt, at the end of last year, he missed the break on that occasion and did well to finish second.
Well away two weeks later, he was never headed in a 1600m maiden but, again, was not the best behaved at the stalls.
Disaster was to strike on Super Saturday when, as hot favourite of the Al Bastakiya, he broke out of the stalls at the same moment the field were set on their way, unseating Bernard Fayd’Herbe in the process.
“The stalls had always been an issue with him,” said De Kock. “We had done an awful lot of work with him ourselves, as well as involving the starter, Shane Ryan, and his team so it was a bit disappointing.
“We know he is a serious horse and we hope a genuine UAE Derby contender so we reached out to South Africa’s leading equine behavioural therapist, Malan du Toit.”
Unorthodox perhaps but the evidence is that the move has reaped dividends and, last Friday, Fawree passed his stalls test with flying colours.
Du Toit explained: “He is a lovely horse and has been a pleasure to work with throughout. He was a bit insecure to begin with but improved on a daily basis to the extent that we can now load him without a hood and he is happy to stand in the stalls.
“Importantly, the handlers who will deal with him on Saturday were on hand and everything went perfectly.”
Fayd’Herbe, who has been involved throughout and ridden the horse in both completed starts as well as on Super Saturday, will again be in the saddle.
De Kock added: “Bernard has done an awful lot of hard work with the horse and Christophe Soumillon certainly understands the situation so is more than happy.”
However, Soumillon will be aboard Mubtaahij, without a win since that 2015 UAE Derby success but who has consistently performed well in top company.
This will be just his second start of the season, having finished second in a handicap over the same 2000m dirt course and distance as Saturday’s race.
“Saturday has been his target since he was second last year,” said De Kock. “Ideally we would have had two runs, as we did last year, but we ran out of time a bit so ran him a month ago instead of Super Saturday.
“We were pleased enough with him not to run him again and he is in great shape ahead of what looks another strong renewal. Arrogate (USA) is clearly world class and going to be tough to beat but at least we are proven under these conditions.”