MIKE de Kock revealed that one of his Vodacom Durban July contenders, the five-year-old Irish-bred mare Gorongosa (headline photo), nearly didn’t see a racetrack as she had shown so little at home before her first run.
“I nearly didn’t race her but decided I might as well give her a couple of runs,” he said.
Gorongosa finished unplaced on debut over 1200m, 13,65 lengths behind the winner, but then improved to finish a 3,5 length fourth in her second start when stepped up to 1900m.
Even that second race couldn’t have filled the yard with much hope as the winner, her stablemate Celestial Cloud, was a relative battler by De Kock standards.
However, Gorongosa has proved a revelation since then, winning nine of her next ten starts from 1700m up to 3200m.
She has a good draw of six and a jockey in Kevin Shea who already has two Vodacom Durban July wins under his belt.
“She will be running at them strongly,” said De Kock of the mare, who possesses plenty of stamina, but also a good turn of foot.
He added that she was a horse who still showed little at home, especially on the sand tracks, although her grass work was usually good.
However, De Kock still rates Ilha Bela his best runner despite her wide draw.
“She has to be the best of the four,” he said.
Anthony Delpech will ride Ilha Bela and confirmed that she had improved a lot since her Woolavington second place finish.
He wasn’t too concerned about the wide draw.
De Kock said that Vettel had “definitely improved” since his Daly News run when finishing 3,75 lengths behind July favourite Jackson.
His relatively good draw and the 2kg swing in the weights should see him finishing closer.
De Kock said that on Solo Traveller’s Betting World 1900 run he had little doubt that he would see out the 2200m trip.
He recorded the fastest 400m to finish time in that race when a 1,8 length fourth to Beach Beauty, with whom he will now be 1,5kg better off.
However, jockey arrangements would suggest Solo Traveller is the least fancied of De Kock’s four runners.
De Kock will equal the feat of the great Terrance Millard by having three July winners on the trot if one of his runners wins this year, although this will still be short of the record of four set by Fred Murray from 1910 to 1913.
It would also be De Kock’s fifth July win in total, two short of Syd Laird’s record seven and one short of Millard’s six.
His success today has surpassed his expectations when he first took out his license in the late 1988.
“I just wanted to win one July,” he admitted.
De Kock, talking of his other runners on the day, described the two-year-old New Zealand-bred Red Ransom filly Rumya as “smart.”
He added, “She wants a lot further.”
She will start one of the favourites for the Durban Golden Slipper over 1400m having run out an impressive 3,25 length winner of her debut over 1200m.
She has the advantage of a pole position draw.
His Australian-bred Redoute’s Choice filly Honorine will run in the Grade 1 Zulu Kingdom Explorer Golden Horseshoe over1400m against the boys.
She looks to be packed with speed and has won both of her starts over 1000m despite starting slowly both times.
She has a wide draw to overcome, but looks a type that should settle, so she should be a very interesting runner.
De Kock’s Golden Chateau was very impressive in his gallop at Greyville last Thursday when cruising alongside Solo Traveller.
Many pundits make him the best bet on the card in the Listed Thukela Handicap over 1600m, where he has a good draw.
However, the Yogas Govender yard are also bullish about the chances of the pole position drawn Lake Arthur in this race.
De Kock also has fine chances with the likes of the well regarded Dubai Dizzy in the second, Captain’s Wild, Galileo’s Destiny and Silent Partner in the Grade 3 Schweppes 2200 and classy stayer Ilsanpietro in the Grade 2 Mango Gold Vase over 3000m.
However, it can virtually be taken for granted with the professionalism of his yard that all of his 17 runners on the day will arrive in peak condition and form study will be the best guide to their chances.