MIKE de Kock’s stable has started the Spring Feature Season on the Highveld in the best possible way, winning last week’s Gr2 Emerald Cup at the Vaal with Meadow Magic and following up at Turffontein on Saturday with two Gr3 feature wins.
Kahal’s daughter Festival Of Fire made it three wins from only four career starts with a top performance in the Joburg Spring Challenge for Fillies and Mares over 1450m, while Link Man bounced back to his best with a commanding win in the equivalent race contested by male runners.
Added to this came two more wins on the day, one by up-and-coming four-year-old Mujaarib in a MR94 divided handicap over 1800m and one by his contemporary, Rocco’s Luck, in a MR76 Handicap over the same trip.
Festival Of Fire was placed within striking distance by Derreck David and he let her go with 300m to run, using the advantage of her handy galloping weight. Festival Of Fire wasn’t extended in winning – she looks set for more feature glory as her career progresses.
“Well done to our team in Durban for preparing Festival Of Fire for this race, she travelled well this week and this was a smart win, she’s a decent filly. We have options for her going forward, the Starling Stakes on Summer Cup day is one of them,” commented assistant trainer Mathew de Kock.
Berry Blaze was beaten 5.50-lengths by her stablemate, doing her best work late and Mathew noted: “This was a cracking run after a rest for Berry Blaze. It was far too short, she’s also going for the Summer Cup and we’re chuffed with her progress.”
Festival Of Fire has won R186,000 in stakes for her breeder Chris Saunders, who races the filly in partnership with Lady O’Reilly.
Link Man, in command.
Link Man was slow off the mark, like last week at the Vaal when he finished unplaced on sand, but he moved up smartly at the business end, took charge along the running rail and won going away under Anton Marcus.
“Link Man is a better horse gelded, and if you look at last week’s race replay, he actually ran a good race after a rest, staying on. I think it suits him to come from off the pace, so the slow start actually worked on his favour, he likes to run at his rivals. This was a good stepping stone for the Charity Mile,” Mathew said.
Link Man is owned by Greg Blank, Gary Burg and Larry Nestadt and he’s by The Alchemy’s stallion, Toreador, from Western Smoke.
Marcus also booted home the other pair, Mujaarib and Rocco’s Luck – the former a clear Summer Cup contender after handling his step up in distance and defeating a good sort in Gary Alexander’s Meissa.
Mujaarib is unbeaten after three starts and Mathew assessed: “He wasn’t fully wound up today which makes this win really impressive. He’s a little dumb still too, the penny hasn’t dropped, but he showed his class when he was headed and came again, this after being caught wide early. He’s one to watch.”
Mujaarib, a progeny of Nadeem, was raised at Shadwell Stud and races in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai.
Rocco’s Luck, improvement to come.
Rocco’s Luck, like Mujaarib, will improve with racing. He won his 1800m start easily enough – one length clear at the line – but it could have been further and Mathew assessed: “He’s very dumb still, when he got to the front he stopped. He will come on from here.”
Rocco’s Luck races for Bernard Kantor and Larry Nestadt and is a son of Royal Academy.
Headline photo: Mujaarib (blue silks, Anton Marcus), fights of Meissa (nearest camera) to win.