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Mike de Kock – Calls A Spade A Spade

'Polytrack is cheap racing in most overseas locations'

Multiple SA champion trainer Mike de Kock has given the Western Cape a major thumbs up and is considering opening a satellite base at Milnerton.

Mike De Kock - making plans

Mike de Kock – ‘critics don’t bother me’

“In Durban, presently, the only good things about winter are good weather, the Durban July and playing golf,” he said, adding that the Cape also offered a better programme for young horses.

“We’d like to have a small string of horses based in Cape Town in winter. From previous experience I’ve found that horses campaigning in the Cape furnish and improve really well, they love it and are in great shape when they return to home base.”

We put it to him that he may have silenced some of his critics with his Gold Vase quartet success on July day.

Critics really do not bother me because I fail to see what there is I need to prove to them. I’m approaching 3000 career winners, we’ve saddled 109 Gr1 winners around the world. I have two-thirds of the string I used to have, I’d like even less, and by choice my best horses have been exported every year for the last decade. I retired or exported eight Gr1 horses last year. I do not answer to idiots who lurk in cyberspace and use selected statistics to concoct lies and insults just to be hailed as heroes amongst themselves. These morons have little or no knowledge of horseracing and are insignificant in my life and of no value to the sport,” he said.

Enaad

Enaad heads the De Kock Gold Vase quartet sensation – he is back for Gold on Super Saturday

We asked how his Gold Vase runners pulled up and what his Gold Cup attack was looking like?

“They’re all fine, all pulled up well and their preparations have gone well. Whether they will get into the race is another question. Enaad, Smart Mart and Kinaan are at the bottom of the weight list. You never know with Gold Circle’s panel,” he quipped.

Always a man with a solid considered opinion, we asked him for his thoughts and his opinion on the downgrading of the Gold Cup from a Gr1 to a Gr2.

Wild One wins the Gold Cup

Wild One wins the Gold Cup

He said that he fully agreed with the downgrade and added that he felt that we have too many Gr1 races in South Africa and that we were not on a par with international standards.

“We can have fewer Gr1’s. Compare, if you wish, the Gr1 Investec Derby at Epsom with the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby. Would you rate them as equals? I rest my case.”

Of his likely other runners for Super Saturday, he felt that Misty Birnam could be a runner in the Premier’s Champion Stakes.

His unbeaten Snitzel colt, Heavenly Blue appears an exciting  top prospect in the making and we had hoped to see him line up in the same race.

The crowd at Greyville on Saturday

Worried about the Greyville track

De Kock listed the poor Greyville surface as one reason to keep the 2yo at home.

Heavenly Blue is a well-bred and beautiful-looking grey. We stepped him out over a mile to win his Maiden and then he dropped 200m in distance to win a 1400m Juvenile plate against stronger. That was impressive, so the right signs are there, but I’m always cautious to make an assessment before they’ve come up against top quality horses. I’m not convinced Heavenly Blue has beaten anything of note. He has drawn 21 for the Premier’s Stakes, so it will be a risk taking him down to KZN to race on what is currently a poor track and from a wide draw. He’ll possibly just stay at Randjesfontein and we’ll save him for the Gauteng summer. Potentially he is a classic horse,” said the astute horseman.

Many seasoned jockeys and trainers had spoken up about the poor state of the tracks in KZN. We asked the man who has raced all over the world if he agreed and what he felt could have been done differently.

Greyville polytrack

Polytrack is cheap racing

“I do agree with them but we have a situation here that could have been prevented if Gold Circle didn’t keep their heads buried in the sand. They split the Greyville track in two to install the Polytrack and they cut away a part of the good grass track which is now narrower and has suffered as a result. We have 115 nominations for races where only 12 can race on the Polytrack, owners are not getting a chance to race. They will have to programme more races for lower merit rated horses and that will lower the standard. Polytrack racing is cheap racing in most overseas locations. Gold Circle paid for two experts from Newmarket, UK, to advise them on the restructuring of their tracks. They chose to ignore the opinion.”

Mubtaahij

Mubtaahij wins in Dubai

Much of his best stock is often exported to campaign overseas and as such it has become rather difficult to assert his usual dominance in feature events over the past few seasons.

We suggested that this must be a concern for the powerful team and asked what plans they had in place to remedy this in the new season?

Kapil (Weichong Marwing) won in Dubai with Mike De Kock. He is led in by part-owners James Drew and Mike Fullard. (Andrew Watkins)

Kapil (Weichong Marwing) won in Dubai with Mike De Kock. He is led in by part-owners James Drew and Mike Fullard. (Andrew Watkins)

“No, dominance is not a concern or a priority of any kind to me, so I do not need to ‘remedy’ anything. I’ve won eight Championships and all the major races at least once, there is no pot of gold at the end of winning the National Title. Prize money in South Africa is relatively poor compared to what is on offer abroad, I prefer to race overseas when I have horses that are good enough – for the financial rewards and the great international exposure for our industry.”

De Kock’s parting of the ways with champion jockey Anthony Delpech came as a surprise to many.

He didn’t appear impressed by us raising this question, dismissing it as ‘old news’.

“Why are we returning to this? As a full-time partnership things came to an end, we both needed a break but we’re still friends and Anthony still rides some of our horses when he is available.

Weichong Marwing - top drawer

Weichong Marwing – top drawer

We have seen that their former stable jockey Weichong Marwing is back with the yard.

We enquired what he brings to this powerful outfit and if there was any possibility that they could once again combine successfully on the world stage?
“Weichong and I have been friends for many years and of course it’s always an advantage to be able to use a man of his talents and experience. But he is not my stable jockey as such. He has his own commitments, doesn’t want to be tied down and I’m giving rides to others including Anton Marcus, Gavin Lerena, Callan Murray and Anthony Delpech. I actually prefer having a bigger choice of jockeys at present.”

De Kock has run successful ‘branches’ of his powerful business for many years and his teams in Gauteng and KZN have remained stable and loyal.

My team is as steady as ever, it hasn’t changed much. My son Mathew and my wife Diane de Kock are in charge at Randjesfontein with Clayton Matthee. Nathan Kotzen and John Buckler run things at Summerveld when I am away. We use a variety of jockeys and apprentices in both centres. We like to give chances to apprentices whenever possible.”

Having achieved eight SA Championship titles and won major races all over the word, it is difficult imagining that ‘Magic Mike’ has anything further to chase.

Mike with son Mathew

Mike with son Mathew

But his contribution to continuing the lineage and breaking the frustrating brakes on South Africa playing a more dominant role on the world stage, have given the razor-sharp no frills horseman plenty to think about.

“I’d like to see my son Mathew established and on his way.  I want to continue to play a part in solving South Africa’s bloodstock export protocol, so that we can take our rightful place on the world’s racing and horse export stage. I am passionate about improving the lot of owners and trainers. With my experience having raced internationally, I believe I can make a difference to what many consider to be poor administration in some quarters.”

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