He’s won more than US$6m at Dubai World Cup Carnival over the years and globe-trotting trainer, Mike De Kock is hoping that his current group of new hopefuls can add to his Dubai spoils.
With just seven weeks to go until the international part of Meydan’s season opens on January 10, De Kock’s charges are out of quarantine and beginning to train for their 2013 desert debuts.
Fourteen horses recently made the trip from South Africa to Dubai, among them the supermare, Igugu. The multiple Grade 1 winner, who claimed the 2011 J&B Met and Durban July, has already created a stir around the world. She will contest Meydan’s big fillies’ races, but, talented as she is, she is far from the only weapon in the De Kock arsenal.
Indeed the South African, who in addition to his Carnival wins has also claimed nine Dubai World Cup Day races amounting to more than US$11m in prize money, has plenty of firepower at his fingertips.
Keep your eyes peeled for Soft Falling Rain. The handsome dark bay has some very smart form in South Africa and De Kock is looking forward to getting him on the track with a view to the UAE 2,000 Guineas if all goes well.
“He’s the unbeaten champion two-year old in South Africa, having won four of four,” said the master trainer. “I’m very confident he will go on the all-weather. My only concern is whether he will get the distance as the furthest he’s run so far has been just over five furlongs in South Africa.
“He’s out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, which gives me reason to hope that he might step up, but he’s a very nice horse and we always have the plan B which will be to pursue a programme over a shorter distance or we can get him on the grass and see. We plan to campaign him for the Guineas if all goes well.”
The Apache, a two-time Grade 1 winner on South African soil is set for an early Carnival run.
“He’s very nice horse who brings some pretty good form to the table,” said De Kock. “I’m thinking of running him in the first Al Maktoum Challenge.”
Shea Shea, winner of two Grade 1 sprints at home is to contest the shorter trips at Meydan.
“He’s a top sprinter in South Africa and we decided to bring him over for the 1,000m programme in Dubai as there are some decent sprint races to be picked up,” said the handler.
Final Button, who has been visiting the main track in the mornings, looks a smart prospect and one that De Kock rates highly.
“He is a very nice horse for Malih Al Basti. He’s won a few races and been placed in decent company, so I’m interested to see what he can do in Dubai,” he said.
And Igugu is not the only talented filly in the De Kock ranks this season. Emotif has also been creating a stir and may prove a foil to her more illustrious stablemate.
“She’s a very nice filly by Giants Causeway and I’m looking forward to campaigning her for the fillies’ races,” he said. “She’s won a very nice race at home over 1,400m and she will do well over 1,800m or a mile.”
De Kock has also been on another raiding party to Coolmore following his success with Carnival stars, Viscount Nelson, who won the 2011 Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort and Golden Sword who was coaxed back into form and the winner’s enclosure twice last season.
This time De Kock will try his luck with Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes winner and Juddmonte International third, Await the Dawn, who was last seen on a racetrack finishing last in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free for his former trainer, Aidan O’Brien.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” said the handler. “We got him from Coolmore and he is not a straight forward horse. I would say that he was along the same lines as Viscount Nelson.
“It would be a case of just being patient with him and seeing how he goes. I wouldn’t know when we’ll have him out first time but my gut feeling is that you wouldn’t see him until the latter part of the Carnival.”
David Livingston, a Group 2 winner in Ireland, is another Coolmore cast off who is stopping off for a season in Dubai before going to stud.
“He was bought with a view to standing at stud but it was decided to give him a chance on the track for one season first. He has some reasonable form and he might adapt well to Dubai. He’s another one that is a case of wait and see.”
De Kock suspects that Mushreq will relish the all-weather track at Meydan.
“He’s a nice horse who has been placed just short of the top couple of three year olds in South Africa,” said the trainer. “I bought him over because I think he will do very well on the all-weather. I’m looking at him to do well in the Carnival handicaps.”
Also targeting the lucrative Meydan handicaps are Royal Ridge and Jet Legend.
“There are a few horses that I decided to bring over as I felt they would do well on the all-weather in Dubai. Mushreq, Jet Legend and Royal Ridge are in that category,” said De Kock.
De Kock is expecting to further enrich his string with a handful more horses that are yet to arrive and they will work alongside the newly-gelded Zanzamar and Mickdaam who were already in Blue Stables.
“Mickdaam is one that I’m really looking forward to having there this season,” he said. “He has some nice turf form from England and I’ll see how he goes on the turf here. I know the turf in Dubai comes up a bit firmer but we’ll just see how he handles it.
Zanzamar has been gelded since we saw him last. He is a good stayer and I felt that he ran a very nice race on World Cup night [when finishing third in the Dubai Gold Cup]. So he’s another one that I’m looking forward to.”