OUR Giant, the talented and versatile gelding formerly based in South Africa, made an impressive seasonal debut on the All-Weather at Meydan in Dubai on Thursday, the opening night of the 2011 Racing Carnival.
The seven-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway, who has only raced once since arriving in the UAE in December 2009, finished powerfully to win the $USD 110 000 Conquest Conditions Sprint over 1200m under a typically no-nonsense ride from Christophe Soumillon.
It’s always a pleasure watching top class, confident jockeys in action. Ryan Moore, as most will recall, was at his brilliant best on Workforce in last October’s ‘Arc’ at Longchamps, one of the most memorable rides of 2010.
While Meydan’s Conquest Sprint cannot possibly be compared to the great French spectacle, Soumillon’s similarly decisive riding tactics supplied the rare kind of thrill that regular race-watchers thrive on.
Our Giant wasn’t rushed along early to match the brisk gallop. He dropped about eight lengths off the pace to race among the backmarkers, where he was kept away from the hustle and bustle of sprint-race traffic. He galloped rhythmically and stayed in touch with the pacemakers going into the gradual turn at the 700m mark , where excitement started to mount and there would forthwith be no show of mercy from any of the contenders or their jockeys.
The difference between top riders and world-class ones is just a question of timing. Soumillon was plotting his finishing run long before this field raced into Action Bend. From his position near the back of the string, he spotted a passage between runners that he believed would lead to the winning post. He wasted no time in heading straight into it, Our Giant’s next gear engaged.
On this balmy desert evening, Irish-born jockey Willie Supple found himself on the back of the seven-year-old mare Allo Pura who, in the next furlong, would be blowing in the De Kock runner’s neck with a strong run of her own.
Alo Pura raced a good length and a bit ahead of Our Giant when the said passage made its tempting appearance and Supple saw its potential too. If Alo Pura could get in there first, the contest would be as good as won, because this speedy seven-time winning mare, like Our Giant, was travelling nicely on the bridle.
However, the cheerful sounds of Clare Tin Whistles and jolly fiddles were not about to ring in celebration from Meydan down various rocky roads to Dublin as they might have rung two-and-thirty-minutes past the hour earlier when Supple’s compatriot Pat Cosgrave kept three-year-old filly Reem going just long enough to hold off Mahbooba in the UAE Guineas Trial.
Reem (Pat Cosgrave), goes pillar to post under Pat Cosgrave in the UAE Guineas Trial. Mahbooba ran a big race in second. (Photos by Andrew Watkins).
Soumillon, who must have been educated at an institution where none of the dictionaries contained the word ‘fear’, had already put his head down. He made his calculated move on Our Giant just one little moment faster than Alo Pura. With the taste of victory as definitive on his tongue as a thimble-full of Tullamore Dew, Soumillon barged his way through first.
At this point the race unfolded faster than Tuttle’s Reel and a few no-hopers were spreading out to get themselves out of harm’s way.
Another vital opening came suddenly into view of the two contenders who were storming almost neck-and-neck to a conclusion for which only one runner would ultimately receive the accolades.
Not quite the Gap of Dunloe, this was a width just one horse away from the running rail and on the immediate inside of the free-running leader Inxile, a six-year-old gelding on which young Michael O’Connell, yet another Irish native, must have thought he was about to clinch his first significant win in Dubai.
The momentum was with Soumillon, who now had Our Giant in full cry. They again reached the desired target a split second before Alu Pura, who wouldn’t give up and gamely thrust herself into Our Giant’s space after a Supple jig. But in the last 75m she simply failed to match strides with Soumillon’s low-flying mount.
Our Giant hit the wire three-quarters of a length clear of Inxile who, in turn, had only a short-head to spare over the brave mare.
World Number One Golfer Lee Westwood with ERA Member Malih Lahej Basti and Mike de Kock.
Our Giant is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum in partnership with International Sports Management (ISM) founder Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler and his long-time friend and associate Lee Westwood, who incidentally tops the latest World Golf Rankings ahead of Tiger Woods and will be teeing off in a tournament in Abu Dhabi next week.
Mike was excited and called Our Giant’s a “special win on a big night for the stable’’.
He explained: “I’ve been trying to win a race in Dubai for Chubby and Lee for seven years and we’ve finally cracked it!
“As luck would have it they are with us here at Meydan tonight which on its own is a feat of note considering the rigorous travelling schedules of the golf professionals. We are proud to have them as friends and patrons in the yard.”
He said about Our Giant: “He’s a superb horse, he’s much better than he was last year and he’s versatile, not only over various distances but also on turf as well as the All-Weather. One of the best things about the Dubai Carnival is that it gives us several options, especially with a horse like this. We may now aim him at a race like the Godolphin Mile but there are other avenues we could explore too.”
Australian import Reem, a daughter of Galileo owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, showed courage in her defeat of Mahbooba and Mike said: “We didn’t know much about Reem before tonight’s race and we honestly didn’t expect her to win. Now we know more about her!”
Mike added, in the same breath: “Mahbooba put in a tremendous effort, most encouraging going forward into the Carnival.”
Mike’s concern that 2200m would be a little too far for in-form old-timer Wonder Lawn proved to be on the mark. The seven-year-old started a nice-looking challenge going into the last 400m of the Evidenza, but he became one-paced over the last 100m and could only manage fourth place behind Rock N Roll Ransom.
Imbongi, one of the stable’s best performers at last year’s Carnival but notably out of sorts in recent weeks, appears to be turning the corner. With a cracking second to Mendip in Round 1 if the Al Maktoum Challenge, Imbongi confirmed that his improved form in work this week had been reflective of his returning enthusiasm.
Headline photo: Our Giant (Christophe Soumillon), burst through all the right gaps to win the Conquest over 1200m from Inxile (nearest camera) and Alo Pura.
Mike and team
I again had the chance to watch you and your team in action on day one of the carnival, you guys blow me away, you make me proud to be a South African.
Congratulations and keep up the good work
Well done to Sheikh Mohammed, thank you for putting your trust in a South African
PS: You know wher to sent the tips after those heartfelt words – LOL
Mike De Kock should be knighted
As long as you train ….i can make a living
Agreed! that ride on Our Giant was breathtaking – I watched it and I’m still trying to get my breath back! Mahbooba’s my favourite for something big in the filly’s line this year though – she was catching Reem rapidly at the end but the post came too soon by 100 m. Imbongi I bet will take out something good as well, he’s a seriously good sort. I hear Aiden O’Brien is sending a horse/horses. What fun this Carnival is going to be!