MIKE de Kock took centre stage at the Equus Awards, in this photo posing for the JC Photos camera along with the connections of Irish Flame and Gold Circle’s Vidrik Thurling (back, left).
MIKE de Kock’s stable collected a record nine trophies at South African Racing’s Oscars, the Equus Awards, held at Emperors Palace on Thursday, 12 August.
The Awards for the 2009-10 season were presented by Racing South Africa at Emperors Palace and the coveted Horse of the Year award went to Irish Flame, the Milennium Stud-bred son of Dynasty and Clock The Rock.
After running unplaced behind Bravura in the Investec Cape Derby, Irish Flame’s original owner Percy von Molendorf sold a majority share in him to Larry Nestadt, Bernard Kantor and Gary Barber and he was transferred to Mike’s Highveld yard in March.
He proceeded to land his first Grade 1 win when annihilating Triple Crown contender Pierre Jourdan in the SA Derby and went on to win both the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and Gold Circle Derby (Grade 2).
He then very nearly won the country’s premier race, the Vodacom Durban July, but giving 0.5kg was thwarted by a length by his top-class stable companion Bold Silvano.
Little wonder then, that the Equus Awards panel not only voted him Horse of the Year. His owners received two other awards for their star runner – Champion Three-Year-Old Colt/Gelding and Champion Stayer.
Said Mike: “Congratulations to Irish Flame’s connections and thanks for sending him to me. Larry and Bernard were absent from the yard for a while, they’ve come back in style! I am very pleased. This is the one award that really crowns a season for any trainer. It makes it all extra special.”
Mike added as a point of interest that US-based Barber, the well-known Hollywood film director, was appointed CEO of the famous MGM Group this week.
Meanwhile Bold Silvano’s connections, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and Gill Thomson, were not left out of the Award celebrations. Their Silvano colt was voted Champion Middle-Distance Horse.
Mike took the Champion Trainer award after his runners earned a record R22.2 million in stakes. He also trains the champion two-year-old and three-year-old fillies for last season in Mahbooba and Here To Win respectively as well as the champion older filly or mare, Mother Russia.
In addition Lizard’s Desire’s breeder, Albert Boshoff, received a the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association’s International Achievement Award.
Gill Thompson (owner of Irish Flame) and Mary Slack (Mother Russia), with Mike and Graeme Hawkins.
Humbled by the accolades that came his way after a sensational season, Mike said: “This was a spectacular evening for me. I am grateful for the recognition of the stable’s achievements.“
He highlighted once more that the stable’s success was due entirely to a team effort and said: “None of this would be possible without the team of thorough professionals behind me. I say again, my team is the best in the world and those who dispute it need to look at our results.”
Mike thanked the members of his local operation everyone individually, starting with his wife Diane, her assistant Vivian Nkosi, veterinarian Dr Terry Casey and the team at Randjesfontein. Next, assistant trainers John Buckler, Nathan Kotzen, Mick “The Irish Bogtrotter” Flanagan, Tammi Dawson and his son Mathew de Kock, whom he said was blossoming as a young horseman because he absorbed information like a sponge, and applied it with a maturity beyond his relatively limited experience.
He gave his riders credit: “My appreciation goes to ‘The Pastor’, Kevin Shea, our stalwart and journeyman, and to Anthony Delpech, who rode with flair and confidence. I’ll add to this the teams of grooms at various centres who take a lot of pride in their work and the respective horses in their care. Well done to Harold and Roy, our head lads at Summerveld.
“I must also convey my thanks to Chris Haynes, Grant Grant, Christine Terblanche and their team at the Equine Group, who keep the growing administrative side of my business in such efficient and always reliable running order.
“To my close associates Dr John McVeigh and Jehan Malherbe – I am privileged to be working with industry professionals of this calibre and being able to draw on their knowledge and experience.
“Right alongside them are my patrons, a core of wonderful people who have become good friends in recent years.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends for their ongoing support, especially my mother Anne and my daughter Kirsten.
‘Lastly, ‘the media deserves a words of appreciation. Our racing journalists have taken noticeable strides in recent years, this is clear in the way they conduct interviews and in the general quality of the work they produce.
”A special word of thanks to Jack Milner, Nicci Garner and David Thiselton for staying on my tracks and bringing information to the racing public. It’s not always easy or convenient to make time for interviews, but they get the job done every time.
“There is more learn and much to be done at this important juncture for racing. Racing needs to embrace the media and they will have to move obstacles to move us forward.”
– The awards were decided by a panel chaired by Phumelela’s Betting Executive Vee Moodley. The voting panel comprised Phumelela Horseracing Executive Patrick Davis, Gold Circle Chief Operating Officer Graeme Hawkins, Phumelela Marketing and Communications Manager Robert Garner, Tellytrack head Nico Kritsiotis, Form Organisation’s Jehan Malherbe, KZN commentator Sheldon Peters and the National Horseracing Authority’s chief handicapper Roger Smith.