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John McVeigh

John McVeigh

John McVeigh

John McVeigh,the well known vet, together with trainer Mike de Kock has a well earned reputation for excellence and a great knowledge for what it takes to get a racehorse to the peak of perfection. He is passionate about getting the best out of every horse he is involved with and in Mike de Kock he has found the perfect trainer to be involved with. It may be fairly said that he has helped change the attitude of many trainers in SA for the better of racing.  It is to be hoped that this team will be in action for many years to come.


What is your name? John McVeigh.

Where do you live? Winston Park, Durban.

Tell us about your family? My long suffering wife is Amanda and we have 4 children-Tamara, James, Patrick and Ruari.

Where are your vet practices? Summerveld, Milnerton (Cape Town), Newmarket (England) and Chantilly (France).

Were you always interested in horses, and particularly racehorses, and what led you to becoming so involved in the racing aspect of horses? No, Paul and Crockie du Preez ushered me into the veterinary side. Racing was a natural progression from there.

When and where did you qualify as a veterinary surgeon? Glasgow, Scotland, in 1982.

Before specializing in racehorses did you have a general veterinary practice?  Yes-mostly in the Cotswolds area of England.

What led you to becoming so involved with Mike de Kock? Mike and I go back to his first Durban raids from Johannesburg some 15 years ago.

Do you work on all of the de Kock trained horses or do you only take care of those you have been involved in him buying? Our practices look after Mike’s horses in Durban, Cape Town and the UK.

Do you go with Mike on all his trips to Brazil and Argentina etc to buy horses? Indeed-with Jehan Malherbe. Also to USA , Ireland Australia and UK.

Mike is reputed to have a great eye when looking at the conformation of a horse. On these buying trips what is your main contribution? Veterinary issues and a little conformation advice.

When looking a horse to buy what physical aspects do you rate as the most important? An excellent topline.

What immediately puts you off wanting to buy a horse? Personally a poor topline.

Is there any horse you can remember which you wanted to buy that  became a champion? Invasor in the Argentine.

Which horse you were involved in buying, has given you the most satisfaction and pleasure? Right Approach-winner of the Dubai Duty Free.

Do you visit any of Mike’s horses he has in England or Dubai or wherever they may be racing? More so in England than Dubai where I am not licensed to practice.

Do you believe that giving horses Lasix might be the cause of bleeding? No-lasix works. It reduces the severity of a bleed thus helping the horse.

In your opinion what do you think could or should be done to try and prevent bleeding in horses? If I knew that I would be………retired.

Once a horse has bled in a race how difficult is it to try and ensure that this does not happen again?  Bleeding levels are not consistent but Lasix therapy in training is an essential tool.

Apart from bleeding which gets a lot of attention, what other problems do you come across that you consider to be prevalent and serious? Horses with poor bone quality resulting in multiple arthritic issues. The runs per runner rate has decreased over the years and horses seem to be softer.

In your opinion do trainers make enough use of vets or do they skimp as they don’t want to give owners more bills to pay? It varies. Veterinary fees are generally only popular when they are related to an improved performance. The level of attention varies between yards and some owners.

Your profession is obviously your passion but apart from that what else are you passionate about? Travel, rugby, history, geography and reading.

When you have leisure time how do you like to spend it? With my wife and children and all of the above.

Mike de Kock is known to really celebrate a big win in style. Do you ever take part in the celebrations and if you do what is the drink of your choice? I have never been shy-whatever is flowing!

Apart from Mike de Kock and his patrons which other trainers or owners ask you to assist in buying yearlings or older horses? Anyone, who would ask.

Which do you consider to be the best horse you have helped to buy? Eagle Mountain.

Have you come back from any of your trips overseas and thought that you had really learnt something which could be of great value to SA trainers and breeders? “He who travels learns much”. I think that on every trip a nugget is learned. I try to constantly adapt.

Since you started as a veterinary surgeon working with trainers what do you think have been the major advances made by trainers? Soundness levels and preventing lameness and  constant monitoring. Also treadmills.

Is there anything trainers do or don’t do that you feel needs to be attended to? The things we have just mentioned.

Being so intimately involved with the highly successful de Kock stable do you occasionally have a bet? Too Scottish to gamble!

What has been the most exciting and satisfactory day you have had as a vet thus far? My first day at vet school. There were 2000 eligible students and only 60 places. I just scraped in and no more.

If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing, from a veterinary point of view, what would you say that is? Sound horses are happy contented racehorses.

What is your philosophy on the racing game? Troubled times worldwide. Without a strong tote, racing is doomed to mediocrity for the owner and as

If you had any advice for trainers in general what would it be? Learn from the best and copy them

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