Only export – and export on a level playing field – is going to change the game for South African horseracing. Mike de Kock apologised for sounding like a stuck record just before he flew out earlier this week to saddle his three runners at Meydan on Saturday.
Saturday will mark exactly 16 years since the maestro saddled his first winners on Dubai World Cup Night.
The year was 2003 and the great Zimbabwe flagbearer Ipi Tombi and the brilliant Victory Moon commenced a wave of unprecedented success that has endured to the present day.
But there is no question that things have gotten much tougher over time with the almighty dollar on offer attracting some big names. And the reality that the South Africans are playing by stricter rules on an uneven playing field is coming home to roost.
The last five years has seen a gradual decline in De Kock wins from 11 in 2014/15 down to 4 last season and just one first cheque – Baroot won at end February – at the 15th renewal this year.
That from a master horseman who boasts a fabulous record at the Dubai World Cup Carnival with four Gr1 Jebel Hattas, two Gr1 Dubai Duty Free/Turfs, five Gr2 UAE Derby trophies, six Gr2 Al Fahidi Forts and two Al Quoz Sprints.
De Kock is on record, saying that since Ipi Tombe scored her glorious win, the expectations have become a bit unrealistic.
“The burden of being expected to win every single year adds pressure for sure. It’s tougher now because the big stakes entice the best horses the world has to offer.”
While conceding that his trio deserved to be in the line-up on Saturday, he considered them ‘lucky to get in too’.
“Look, at the end of the day we do quite well for where we actually come from, giving our export protocols. Just take a walk around – you can see we have the poor cousins, even though they are three very nice sound horses who are in a good space and who have the potential to go on and win races internationally.”
All three drew well and De Kock feels that Majestic Mambo raced too handily last time and will be a better horse running at them – even if another run would have helped.
Yulong Prince is only 80% ready after his ‘bizarre delay’ in England.
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