Mathew de Kock is undoubtedly a rising star on the South African racing scene. As the son of champion trainer Mike de Kock and the grandson of 16 times Cape champion jockey Johnny Cawcutt, it is almost inevitable that he has already started to make a real name for himself at the tender age of 20. Mathew is now an integral part of the mighty De Kock racing machine, and as this Profile shows he doesn’t lack the passion and will to make his own mark on the sport. He is learning from the best – what else is there to add?
What is your name and age? Mathew de Kock and I am 20 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? I am a Virgo and I was born on the 2nd September 1991.
Where were you born? In Midrand, Gauteng.
You come from a family steeped in racing history and tradition. Tell us all about them and how they have influenced you in your decision to follow in their footsteps and become a trainer? My grandfather, Johnny Cawcutt, was a very successful jockey. He won the July twice and was the leading jockey in Cape Town for 16 years in a row.
Unfortunately I never met him but I have been told he was a great jockey and a gentleman. When he stopped riding he became a trainer and horses were his passion till the day he passed away. My mother was also a jockey and rode in many ladies races. My father came from a family with no racing background and made his way from the bottom to being the successful trainer he is today. Through my parents I grew to love horses and the sport of horseracing. There was never any pressure to come into the game as this is also my passion.
Where do you live? Dainfern Valley.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? Ha! Ha! ….kind of. Sakkie!
As a very eligible young bachelor do you have a steady girlfriend or are you ‘playing the field’? I have been in a relationship with a very loving and supportive girlfriend, Monique Mansour, for close to a year now!
Favourite food? Pasta.
Favourite drink? Iron brew.
Favourite music? I love most music.
Favourite sport? To play – golf and to watch – rugby!
Favourite soccer team? Liverpool, you will never walk alone!
Who are your closest friends in racing circles? Mike Shea, Adam Azzie and Steven Jell.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Mauritius.
How much pressure do you feel knowing that you are following in the footsteps of your father, Mike, who has built a worldwide reputation as a great trainer? Not much pressure at all! I never think about that. I love this game and I enjoy being with the horses every day! I am not trying to be the next Mike de Kock. I have my own goals and aspirations and hopefully, one day, I will blaze a trail where nobody has been before!
Does your father teach you by example or does he like to explain things to you? He never spoon feeds me. He always makes sure I think things through as well as doing some research before he explains it to me. He is a great teacher and is always willing to help me understand things.
At this early stage of your career what would you say are the most important factors about training that you have learnt from your father? There is no substitute for a supremely fit and healthy horse and to have an open mind with everything I come across.
Training winners must be a great thrill for you but on a daily basis what is it about training that you really enjoy? I love the challenge of getting the best out of each individual horse because every horse reacts differently to certain things you do at the training track. It’s great to see the daily improvement!
What things about training do you find really trying? I think the staff can be tiresome at times.
What specifics do you look for in a horse at the various sales? Good conformation, deep girth, energetic attitude and most importantly its pedigree!
How much time did you spend in Dubai before becoming based, more or less, full time in Gauteng? My first 3 months in racing were spent in Dubai. I then came home and started working at Randjesfontein. I enjoy Dubai and hopefully will go back there for future seasons!
How much of racing do you watch? If I can I watch local racing, every day. I also try to keep up to date with the international racing.
Describe your typical day of training? I am up at 5am and at the yard before 6am. I check all the horses and do all my tasks for the morning. I am at the track by 7. After track I spend most of my morning working horses on the treadmill and helping the vets. We finish at about 11am and then it’s back to the stable at about 4pm for afternoon stables!
It seems, from the outside looking in, that the De Kock yard has an endless string of top horses. In all honesty do you have many horses that leave the yard as maidens? I have only been in the yard for 2 years and from what I have seen not many. We try our hardest to get the best out of all our horses. Most of the horses win a race before they leave.
Apart from Igugu which is your personal favourite in the yards, anywhere, right now? I would have to say Red Barrel. He is a quality horse, very good looking and he has a character like no other!
Before you decided to make training your career did you consider anything else? Yes I did. At school I loved all sport but my favourite was golf. I was offered a scholarship to play golf at a university in the USA. The college only started in August so I decided to work for my dad for a ‘gap’ 9 months after matric. When push came to shove I realized my heart was in the game and chose to stay in the yard.
You have the recent Dingaans winner SILVER FLYER running in this Saturday’s Cape Premier Yearling Sale Guineas. How is he doing and what are his chances? He leaves on Tuesday morning and will arrive in Cape Town early on Wednesday. He is very well and hasn’t lost any condition since his Dingaans win. We are expecting him to run a big race. Without studying the form I make the danger the smart filly PRINCESS VICTORIA.
Is the De Kock yard thinking of sending a small string of horses to the Cape for the season or will you raid horses for specific races? We will raid for the Queen’s Plate (Link Man & Gibraltar Blue) and Paddock Stakes (Igugu). Then the horses we are planning on running in the J&B met will stay in the Cape and the rest will come back home.
There is talk of the protocols regarding sending horses to race overseas being eased or lifted. If this happens in the near future will Igugu leave for overseas as soon as possible and not race in the Cape? At the moment I think it will take a bit of time for the protocols to be lifted but if anything does happen I can’t say what decision will be made on Igugu. Right now we are just focusing on the Cape season and hopefully the quarantine structures will be sorted out by that time.
With the Cape season now in full swing which of your horses have you earmarked to send to contest some of their feature events? Silver Flyer, Igugu, Link Man, Gibraltar Blue are the main ones with a few more entries for the J&B met.
Do you have any plans to accompany your father to Dubai for the Carnival? Not this season, but next season.
How inspirational was it for you to watch Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech fight it out for the jockey’s championship considering that Delpech is your stable jockey? It was very interesting as Delpech is our stable jock but Marcus rode the Markus Jooste horses in our yard. So it was great to support both of them. It lifted our game because when they were riding for us we wanted to win even more. They are two fantastic jockeys!
Your dad has the reputation of being able to celebrate in a big way. How do you celebrate a big win? Ha! Ha!..the apple does not fall far from the tree here !
Which has been the most memorable and exciting day you have had in racing thus far? It would have to be a toss-up between Ipi Tombe and Igugu’s July wins. Ipi Tombe was my dad’s first and was very special to all of us and of course Igugu has a very special place in my heart so that was also an amazing day. I still get goose bumps.
Do you ever advise friends to have a bet when you are training a horse you feel has a really big winning chance? Yes I do, but I think they are learning that there are no rules in this game and I will probably make them bankrupt before they realize it.
Outside of racing what is your biggest passion? Golf!
Are there any changes you would like see made to racing to make it more interesting and exciting to attend and follow? I would like to see more artists playing on the course. In Dubai and England they have massive concerts after race meetings with bands like Sting and U2 playing. I think that if we had similar things here with ticket sales etc. we will see more people on the course and therefore make it more exciting to be at the races.
Are most of your friends people connected to racing or is it a mix? I have a good mix of racing and non-racing friends!
Do you think enough is being done to keep racing ‘straight?’ Besides a few tweaks here and there I believe racing is fairly well controlled and that most people have racing’s best interests at heart.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? Mind your own business and you will have a business to mind!