MIKE de Kock has shown a brand of loyalty unique in horseracing. The champion trainer has stuck with a 21 year old newly qualified jockey on a big horse for a big owner. And he has had no reason to regret his decision.
The Winning Form sponsored jockey Tshwaro Appie only qualified on 10 January after an apprenticeship which saw him ride 65 winners, including ‘only two Group winners.’ That is in his own words! And Appie was the man in charge when Sheikh Hamdan’s extremely promising Soft Falling Rain won his first two career starts with emphatic ease. But we all know what the average trainer does after a young or relatively lowly rated rider has done their bit. They get jocked off in favour of an Anthony Delpech or Anton Marcus when the more glamorous and rewarding races get targeted.
But not De Kock. And while a qualifying apprentice could have won the Storm Bird on Soft Falling Rain, Appie did nothing wrong in spite of the undeniable pressure of riding a 1-5 shot in the heart of the exotic bets storm. And from one of the last few crops of his great sire, Soft Falling Rain will ensure that National Assembly leaves with a clap of thunder and bolt of lightening.
The speed triple feature bill livened up the Turffontein afternoon on Saturday with an icon of the South African stallion ranks playing a strategic part in the two listed features, while an emerging sire and a relative new-kid on the block sensation were celebrated in the second and third, respectively. Highlands Stud also bred both Listed race winners.
National Assembly and Var have crossed paths on the track on many occasions via their offspring and both played their bit, together with Drakenstein’s Trippi, to make Saturday the entertaining spectacle that it turned out to be. Highlands Stud stallion National Assembly has now retired with a wonderful record. Both as a Gr1 winning producer of both sexes and as a sire of sire National Emblem. He reigned supreme for 15 seasons and has his final crop of yearlings on offer in 2012. He sired the unbeaten Soft Falling Rain to win the R135 000 Listed Storm Bird Stakes, while he was the dam sire of the Trippi debutante Franny who skated clear to win the Listed Ruffian Stakes. Both races were run over 1000m.
The Highlands Stud bred Soft Falling Rain has both the electrifying early speed and a set of gears that cast him in the mould of a top sprinter of the future. He is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Gardener’s Delight and is well on the way to recouping his R350 000 yearling price tag. – Sporting Post.