There was major success but also major disappointment for South African racing at the Super Saturday meeting at Meydan in Dubai this weekend. Mike de Kock once again flew the flag high by winning the Gr1 Jebel Hatta with his unbeaten Silvano colt Vercingetorix as well as the Gr3 Meydan Sprint with Shea Shea, who were both bred by Klawervlei Stud and ridden by Christophe Soumillon.
The major disappointment was twice Equus Horse Of The Year, the Joey Ramsden-trained Variety Club, who could only manage second in the Gr3 Burj Nahaal over 1 600m on the tapeta.
Vercingetorix sat handy in the 1 800m turf event and his stablemate Anaerobio kindly moved off the rail to let him through down the inside in the straight. The good looking colt had soon put the race to bed and won comfortably from Vancouverite with Anaerobio third.
Variety Club has hero status in South Africa and this was his first defeat since being beaten by Jackson in the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby on January, 2012. Variety Club started odds-on at Saturday’s meeting and after sitting one wide on the flank of the leader, his regular pilot Anton Marcus moved him forward and they struck the front half-way down the straight.
However, just as his many supporters had begun celebrating another machine-like victory, he suddenly began wilting and the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Godolphin-owned Shuruq, who was the only filly in the field, flew up to pass him to win comfortably.
The De Kock machine was on the board after the night’s first thoroughbred feature, the Gr3 Meydan Sprint over five furlongs, which saw the six-year-old National Emblem gelding Shea Shea only just retaining his crown under a fine ride by Soumillon.
Later, the De Kock-trained Ashaawes gelding Sanshaawes put his hand up for a place in the US$ 10 million Dubai World Cup when running second in the Gr1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on the tapeta under Soumillon. Two other South African-breds Zambucca and Alexandra Palace ran 10th and 13th respectively in that race.
The De Kock-trained National Assembly colt Soft Falling Rain had to overcome a wide draw in the fourth, the Gr3 Mahab Al Shimal over 1 200m on the tapeta, and appeared to be in need of the run as he only managed ninth, more than 5,5 lengths behind the winner.
De Kock’s British-bred Oasis Dream colt Gale Force Ten, owned by Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud, disappointed again and trailed in last in that race. Sean Tarry’s Vodacom Durban July winner Heavy Metal, and De Kock’s Mujaarib both disappointed in the Gr2 Dubai City Of Gold over 2 410m, finding little in the straight from midfield positions to finish second last and third last respectively.