De Kock Dubai Rethink

Lessons are better learned early than never at all, says the master trainer


Mike in a jovial mood at Meydan with assistant trainer Trevor Brown and jockey Christophe Soumillon. (Andrew Watkins)

Lessons are better learned early than never at all! It will be surprising to some, but Mike de Kock was in good spirits after the seven of his 11 runners that raced on the new sand track at the first 2015 Dubai Carnival meeting at Meydan on Thursday were beaten out of sight, all finishing near last or actually last.

There were some formidable names among those who found themselves seeing any number of rival hindquarters from a distance away, for the first time in their careers, including El Estruendoso, Royal Ridge and Zahee.

Mike, however, said that the misfiring of his runners on the Meydan dirt will prove to be as vital and important to the yard as it would have been disappointing to their supporters. The evening’s results will quite literally put his Dubai team on the “right track” going forward.

Mike commented: “I’m not worried at all. After tonight we can be certain that there is a track bias so now we know exactly where we stand. You can draw lines through all the poor sand runs. We will revise our initial Carnival strategies without delay. Unless there are absolutely no other options we won’t have another entry on dirt this season.”

He elaborated: “To win on this track you need runners with good gate speed that can jump and lead or sit up second or third. Otherwise you may as well stay at home. Our contenders just couldn’t match their better suited rivals for early speed tonight. The kickback from just behind the front rank is bad, the slower horses get it in the face and sometimes it’s so severe that they battle to breathe.”

“The only proven sand racer in our string this season is Pylon. I’m not even going to consider giving any of our other South African arrivals a try on the surface. There are no true sand gallopers among them and while we will now have fewer racing opportunities, we’ll do what we have to do. We may end up with several of our runners in the same events on the turf track, but we’ll exercise our available options to the best benefit.”


Mushreq (far left) found one too good in True Story, but underlined the capabilities of SAF-breds (Andrew Watkins)

The new sand track will be problematic to race on for the time being, but Mike pointed out that it serves as an excellent training grid. He said: “The track surface is actually very good, it’s kind to horses working hard in training. But we’re badly in need of a good rain shower here. It’s a young track and still a bit loose. That’s why there’s so much kickback. It needs a chance to settle, it will improve with more racing.”

Mike was pleased with the good showings posted by his turf runners.

The newcomer Ajeeb, who oozes class, ran on solidly after a lengthy absence from racing. He claimed a close fourth place in a competitive, quality 1000m sprint, a trip now well short of his best. Mushreq and Sanshaawes both made the frame in the Listed Singspiel Stakes over 1800m and Merhee just needed his 1400m outing – he was beaten under five lengths by a smart four-year-old from the Godolphin ranks, after racing well in touch for most of the journey.

Especially chuffed with Mushreq’s second place to Godolphin’s True Story, Mike commented: “I said in my preview that True Story looked a cut above and would be hard to beat. He comes from the leading  Gr1 ranks in Europe and that’s exciting because Mushreq is at best a Top Gr2 horse from South Africa. That he acquitted himself so well proves again that South African-breds are able to hold their own anywhere in the world.”

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