Mike The Mechanic

De Kock on the July and the frustrations

The A Team. Delpech and De Kock doing what they do best.

He has trained the winner of every Group race in South Africa and has five runners, including the favourite Igugu, in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July. But champion trainer and passionate racing ambassador  Mike De Kock  has a bone  to pick with officialdom.  Beyond the glamour and lustre of the media cloud that shrouds and carries this  internationally renowned event, lurks a dark shadow of  unhappiness and pure frustration.

A  breath of fresh air in an industry and sport where most folk think but don’t say and sell their souls for the cost of a beer. Mike De Kock moves and shakes with the rich and famous, treads on toes with his no-nonsense style and is unquestionably one of the greatest ever racehorse trainers to be produced in this country. Yet he has never forgotten his humble roots  and the fact that he refuses to butt-kiss and blow smoke for the power mongers who crave his attention and conversation in the shallows of horseracing’s society circles.

The no-nonsense  son of  Alberton   known to his mates as Sakkie, has nothing to prove. He has trained the winners of  three of the past nine Vodacom Durban July winners  but says that Vodacom are ‘getting it cheap’ at the price they are paying. “ Obviously we would love to see a stake of R5 million and attract more overseas participation but even if it was just a million rand we’d still be lining up to participate. It is just a race that has that magic something. It has that mystique about it and evokes a certain emotion in racing and non-racing people alike,” he said. But he goes on to warn that it is ‘high time we get it right and we cannot go on the way we are going.’ 

“All stakeholders and role-players need to sit down and have a pow wow.  We have never been asked for our input, yet we are expected to go with the flow and buy in. We need to sort things out soon,” he said with an element of urgency.

When questioned on what concerned him , De Kock said that as a start, the Public Gallops were a ‘pain in the backside.’ He explained that he understood the need for the publicity and hype but said that the Kentucky Derby was a good example of how the show could be marketed. “ Every time we put a horse in a float we run the risk of injury. The public would get much more out of having every trainer, jockey and even the owner being interviewed  in the comfort of the yard. They could watch the horse in work and at play. This could be shown exclusively by the operators at big screen sit-down breakfasts or dinners in the build-up week.”

He also took issue with the final acceptance date which is two and a half weeks prior to the race, which he said flew in the face of international best practice:” The Kentucky Derby, the Melbourne Cup and the  Dubai World Cup are accepted a matter of days before. The Dubai authorities kept me informed of our progress and prospects on a daily basis. That doesn’t happen here. I still don’t know what exactly the requirements and clearcut guidelines are to guarantee a run in the July. Also the costs of the various stages are prohibitive. The cloak and dagger behind closed doors nonsense has also got to stop. The days of the boys club are over,” he said sternly.    

Crash landing. De Kock sympathises with the Vertical Takeoff connections.

He sympathised with the connections of the injured Vertical Takeoff who he said had done their money in cold blood after supplementing their Jet Master gelding after the Lonsdale. “ What about the other owners of marginal horses  that have now been denied a run  with Vertical Takeoff’s stall-gate standing empty? And the two and a half weeks ante-post market just helps the Bookies promote their Open Bet, which we keep being told is racing’s number one enemy. This event markets itself so they mustn’t put the marketing argument forward,” he said.

One thing De Kock said that was communicated was the position of the false rail. But he urged the operator to place it further out as it brought the pace into play and made for a fairer race. On his five runners, he felt that Igugu was the right horse as she had done nothing wrong and ‘liked to win’.

“ My jockeys are paid professionals and they will make their decisions and would have summed up the pace within the first 400m. This is not formula one racing and I have to have faith in their judgement. That is why we will have a plan B but ultimately they will ride the race as it comes. Igugu could well make the pace. I don’t think Safwan is quick enough to get up front early in spite of the early media speculation,” he said.

Eye on the prize. July favourite Igugu is her trainer's fancy.

De Kock said that Galileo’s Destiny had only been with him for seven weeks but was ‘putting his hand up’ and he liked what he saw. He went on to say that both the filly Flirtation and Captain’s Wild were poorly drawn, but should not be discounted.

“ They have all earned their place in the race and tilt at the big one. They will go to post fit and doing their best. But whatever happens, the sun will rise the next morning and life will go on,” he said.  


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