De Kock Declares War

Shock as local champ is blown away by visitor

Gavin Lerena punches the air in delight as Ertijaal wins the Derby (Bay Media)

Gavin Lerena punches the air in delight as Ertijaal wins the Derby (Bay Media)

Mike De Kock produced a typical stroke of  tactical genius dethroning the star Cape 3yo Act Of War in a thriller Gr1 Investec Cape Derby at Kenilworth on Saturday. The master conditioner saddled the progressive Australian-bred Ertijaal in fine fettle to score a classic pillar to post victory.

Joey Ramsden’s Act Of War had swept all before him in the build-up and the Cape Guineas victor was going for his seventh win in succession as he went to post a firm odds-on favourite.

Many experts thought De Kock was being very optimistic, travelling with a horse who had been programmed in a race against time after a bout of colic and then beaten ‘moderate sorts and laboured to win his last feature’.

Ertijaal had won his first two starts by an aggregate 16 lengths and had then run on powerfully to win the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes.

But we learnt again that briliance at a mile does not necessarily translate to 2000m, as visiting jockey Gavin Lerena took the fight to the enemy and went up to show the way from the break.

Gavin Lerena - clever ride and a Gr1 thrill

Gavin Lerena – clever ride and a Gr1 thrill

In touch for most of the journey, Act Of War came under pressure inside the last 300m and battled to kick as Ertijaal powered on and just became stronger and stronger as the line approached.

Gavin Lerena punched the air in delight as Ertijaal beat a blanket fight for the placings by 4,75 lengths in a time of 123, 82 secs.

Ertijaal’s time of 123.82s was more than 1,5 secs  faster than the time clocked by the impressive four-year-old Futura in the Met just an hour later and interestingly also faster than the 123.90 secs set by Horse Chestnut when he won the Met in 1999!

It was a miracle that Act Of War actually managed to hold second place – that was probably manifestation of his heart size more than ability.

Act Of War’s stablemate Liquid Mercury was a short head away in third,with Krambambuli and Arniston dead-heating for fourth place.

An emotional assistant trainer Matthew De Kock said that they let their ‘horses do the talking’.

“He almost died as a young horse and what a comeback! I am lucky to be surrounded by so many professionals. And we love coming to Cape Town!” he said.

Representing the owners, Angus Gold said it was a ‘huge thrill’ to be in Cape Town.

“The De Kock team deserve a huge credit for bringing him back only eighteen months after being so ill.” He also thanked the sponsors.

Jockey Gavin Lerena was elated. “I consider it a feather in my cap to sit on such a special horse.Thanks to the whole De Kock team,” he said.

The handsome Ertijaal made it four from four and took his stakes earnings to R812 500.

Bred by Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud in Australia , Ertijaal is by the Danzig-stallion Hard Spun (USA) and is the eighth foal produced by Alharir (x Jeune).

Ertijaal is Alharir’s first offspring sired by Hard Spun, a terrific top-level performer who raced only on dirt and the Polytrack, winning seven of 13 starts from 1100m to 1800m, including the Gr1 King’s Bishop over 1400m on dirt at Saratoga. He also won two Gr2 races on the Polytrack.

Ertijaal is lkely to be seen in action in the Highveld Feature Season.


Gr1 Cape Derby  (SAf-Gr1)

Kenilworth, South Africa, January 31, R1 million, 2000m, turf, good, 2.03.82

1 – ERTIJAAL (AUS), 58.0, ch c 3, Hard Spun (USA) – Alharir (AUS) by Jeune (GB). Owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum; Breeder bred in Australia; trainer MF de Kock; jockey G Lerena
2 – Act Of War (SAF), 58.0, b c 3, Dynasty (SAF) – Si Senorita (SAF) by Cordoba (USA)
3 – Liquid Mercury (SAF), 58.0, gr g 3, Trippi (USA) – Skip Poker (USA) by Skip Away (ANY)
Margins: 4.75, 0.05, 0.05


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