IGUGU peers alertly over her door at Meydan’s International Stables, blissfully unaware of the excitement she is generating in the desert.
The four-time South African Grade 1 winner, who has triumphed in 10 of 12 starts, is the latest in a succession of talented mares that top trainer, Mike de Kock, has campaigned in Dubai.
She touched down in Dubai on November 7 with 13 other Dubai World Cup Carnival hopefuls from De Kock’s Johannesburg-based yard.
Trainers are often reluctant to oblige when asked to rank their horses, but like it or not, De Kock will find it impossible to escape the inevitable comparisons between his latest track star and the old order of conquering mares from his yard.
Igugu did not contest the Dubai World Cup Carnival last season, remaining in South Africa and joining an elite group to have won the Grade 1 J&B Met to her Durban July win.
And the black type next to Igugu’s name is not to be sniffed at. In addition to the J&B Met and the Durban July, Igugu also claimed the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 and the SA Fillies Classic last season, earning her South Africa’s Horse of the Year crown.
But where does that leave her on the honour roll of De Kock’s other winning mares?
The man himself is hesitant to commit. “It’s not really fair to compare them,” he says. “They are all different, but I will say this; I firmly believe she’s world class and she’s only going to get better. I do rate her right up there.”
That’s a glowing recommendation from a man who has conditioned some truly outstanding mares.
Among De Kock’s former stars is Ipi Tombe, who ruled the roost in 2003, winning the Jebel Hatta in record time then repeating the feat in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup Day.
Sun Classique was queen in 2008 with victories in the Cape Verdi, Balanchine, and Dubai World Cup day US$5m Dubai Sheema Classic. Raihana claimed the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial and UAE 1,000 Guineas in 2010, Reem and Mahbooba combined to take out the same races in 2011. River Jetez claimed the 2011 Group 2 Balanchine while Mahbooba came back last year to win De Kock a record fifth Balanchine.
“Because of all the quarantine protocols she will have been off the track for a year or more” says De Kock. “So it’s a case of getting her going again. I’ll be looking at the fillies races for her.
“If she’s not ready for the first one [the Cape Verdi] she’ll go for the second one [the Balanchine]. That will be the intermediate target for her and then we’ll be looking at a possible Super Saturday run for her and go from there.”
On paper Igugu, who comes to Dubai rated 118, is right up there with De Kock’s best. Ipi Tombe was rated 116 after winning the Dubai Duty Free, Mahbooba reached a mark of 113 following her Balanchine success last season while Sun Classique hit 113 at her peak.
“She gets anything from six furlongs to one-and-a-half miles and her optimum distance is probably around 10 furlongs,” says De Kock. “A lot of this depends how she goes on the all-weather.”
Martin Talty, International Manager, Dubai Racing Club, is looking forward to Igugu’s debut. “There are a number of top class mares in the world today and Igugu rates alongside them,” he says.
“When you look at the success that South African horses have achieved in Dubai and around the world in recent years, it’s exciting to think that, on official ratings, she is among the very best to travel from South Africa.
“We have had some great mares race in Dubai in Ipi Tombe, Sunline, Sun Classique, Darjina and Royal Delta and she may be right up with them.”
Igugu, who will be released from quarantine in Dubai later this month, is said to be in fine fettle following her travels, which saw her complete 21 days quarantine in South Africa, 90 days in Mauritius and 30 days in England.
“We are pleased with her,” said Steven Jell, an assistant to De Kock. “They were able to do quite a bit of work in Mauritius and England and it’s just a matter of getting them all started again now and letting them get used their surroundings and the climate.” – emiratesracing.com