Filed on 28 October 2010: IN the process of promoting his feed mix to trainers around South Africa, Mike de Kock says he was taken with the “tangible and deep-seated passion” for racing among South African horsemen- and women, their diverse opinions and strong visions for progress.
In his latest blog, Mike urges racing authorities to acknowledge all opinions and to take immediate action to unlock the veritable vault of talent he believes will make South Africa a world power in horseracing.
I haven’t had many opportunities to travel in South Africa over the last few years, but with no suitable candidates for the English racing season in 2010 I’ve had the time to catch up and it’s been most enjoyable!
My temporary break from overseas racing made it possible to launch and market my feed range, De Kock Special Mix, in South Africa. I won’t be making a groundbreaking statement if I tell you that feed is the most essential aspect of any successful training operation. This product, formulated by Dr Rensia De Wet in conjunction with Epol, has taken my stable to a level I couldn’t have imagined.
I’ve experimented with feed since the day I walked into a racing stable. After years of trial and error I eventually found a feed mix that was near perfect for my runners. It’s uncanny, however, that life presents new horizons just when you think you’ve conquered them all.
Rensia, a world renowned expert on horse nutrition and exercise physiology was waiting on my plateau to share her amazing knowledge. She’s done extensive research at the South African Equine Research Council and lectures at Darley’s Flying Start Programmes. I was introduced to her at a time she was managing the ZabeeI Feed Mill in Dubai.
We put out heads together to refine and improve my existing feed formula. The result of our efforts was something so unique and advanced it produced remarkable results overnight. We made a few tweaks to include in our nutritional programme a mix adapted for two-year-olds, horses in training and horses racing at maximum work levels. Again the results were quick and amazing.
A number of South African trainers were keen to sample the product. They reported an almost immediate difference in the overall condition and performance of their runners. Since then De Kock Special Mix has grown fast in local popularity. A few weeks ago we also had a bulk order from abroad.
Let me take this opportunity to thank trainers for their support and enthusiasm and for the warm receptions I received when visiting the Vaal, the Western Cape and the new trainers’ establishment at Fairview. In spending so much time abroad I’d lost touch with many of the hardworking horsemen- and women in our industry. They’d set aside time to attend our presentations, asked the right questions and were visibly excited to learn and improve their skills.
A question that popped up here and overseas was why I had decided to market something so central to my success. Why would I be giving away my secrets to my competition?
The simple truth is that I have built up a marketable brand in racing and with this superb product I have a chance to capitalize on the stable’s success!
It’s not all about money. It gives me great pleasure to see other people succeed at something they devote their lives to. I am in a position to help others to achieve their goals, which makes the entire exercise so much more satisfying.
The principles of market credibility, competition, high standards and the natural improvement of the product over time to an even greater level of excellence are other factors that come into play when you put your name to a brand and ask people to pay for it.
Our marketing venture was enriching in more ways than one. I was privileged to touch base with the heartbeat of South African racing, salt-of-the-earth people with a deep-seated passion for racing and an unwavering commitment to the growth and prosperity of the industry. They love the noble breed they work with more than anything else in the world. Their exuberance gave me a refreshing perspective on the strength of our sport and the diversity of the people who make a living from it.
There is talk of a National Racing Conference at which everyone in the industry will have a chance to present suggestions for racing going forward. I hope that a forum like this will be structured to encompass the views and ideas of the many spirited and knowledgeable individuals I had the pleasure of meeting at different training centres.
I believe that the firm views expressed and the disagreements and arguments we’ve seen in the press and on talk forums recently is a result of the almost tangible passion for racing described above. This is why the views of all stakeholders should be noted and acknowledged. Whoever has a view to express must be given a chance to do so. Nobody should be polarized because horseracing does not belong to one individual or group of individuals.
The captains of our industry face the immediate and important task of bringing everyone together for the betterment of the sport. I challenge them to make this a priority. We need concerted efforts to channel the pent-up energy and the frustrations of racing’s many passionate participants into realizable goals that will benefit all of us.
If we can iron out our differences we’ll be able to harness and nurture the depth of talent and the vast resources of knowledge and skills we have at our disposal in the South African thoroughbred racing and breeding industries.
Differences of opinion can be resolved, eye-to-eye, and our problems are not insurmountable. Our authorities have a good opportunity now to build bridges and create goodwill. Nothing should be holding them back! Our leaders have a duty to bring about unity and all-round cooperation, which will make us powerful. We are indeed the sleeping giant of the racing world.
If the racing autorities would listen to the public e.g. get rid of reserve runners, the public might have a better chance of getting involved. How can a 7 horse race with an odds on favourite come 5th (take note not last) but ensure that all bets are not won by the punter but by the trainer and jockey….. and I repeat not the owner!! Would Baliminos have allowed that!!! Definitely not and those days the crowd at the race course was unbelieveable. Now the trainers (not the owners) and probably the jockeys only think of themselves. Racing will never be the same again until more honest trainers and jockeys stop telling us that they the ones who get up early in the morning. It is your job. Let us be entertained honestly from what you do otherwise keep it to yourself and we will find another way to love horses. Perhaps going to the Zoo!!