STILL savouring Rumya’s victory in last Saturday’s Avontuur Estate Cape Fillies Guineas, South Africa’s globe-trotting champion trainer Mike de Kock has jetted off to Dubai to oversee his international raiding party’s preparations for the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival, writes ROBERT GARNER in The Citizen’s Racing Express.
The Carnival comprises 11 race meetings culminating in Dubai World Cup on 30 March, when the nine Graded races carded include the world’s richest race, the $10-million Dubai World Cup, and two $5-million events in the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Dubai Duty Free.
The Dubai World Cup Carnival starts on Thursday 10 January and carries record total prize money of $37-million. De Kock first went to Dubai in 2003 with just five horses and promptly won two races at Dubai World Cup, putting South African horseracing into the global limelight overnight.
He has gone on to become the top international trainer in Dubai. He has been leading international trainer at the Carnival seven times and has won nine races on the big night, a total bettered only by Dubai-based Saeed Bin Suroor. More big prizes in Dubai look set to come his way in the first three months of next year, when he will roll out some really heavy artillery on to the battlefields of Meydan.
Igugu, Horse Of The Year in South African in 2011 when her victories included the Vodacom Durban July, is undoubtedly the general of De Kock’s Dubai army. Igugu’s long and arduous road to Dubai World Cup 2013 began back in June with a 20-day stint in the Cape quarantine station followed by a five-hour flight to Mauritius, where she spent 90 days along with the other 13 members of De Kock’s raiding party.
That was followed by a month in England and the weary travellers final arrived in the desert last month for a final short stint in the Dubai quarantine station before getting down to work for the Carnival. “The journey to Dubai was a nightmare,” says De Kock. “Fortunately with the exception of Emotif they all came through it reasonably well and I’m happy with them. They should be right for the Carnival next month.”
Igugu, sidelined since winning the J&B Met back in January, can target any of the 1800m Duty Free, the 2400m Sheema Classic (both on turf) and the Dubai World Cup on the synthetic track at the world’s richest race meeting at the end of March, although the Duty Free is probably the race she will run in. “My first choice is to keep her on turf, but we will see how she trains on the synthetic track before finalising our options,” De Kock said.
The other South Africans who made the trip with Igugu include champion sprinter Shea Shea, dual Grade 1 winner The Apache and Soft Falling Rain, the champion two-year-male in South Africa last season. Soft Falling Rain, who is unbeaten with four from four to date, is being aimed at the UAE Guineas over 1600m. “I’m confident he will go on the synthetic and my concern is whether he will get 1600m. He’s out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, which gives hope he will stay. But we can always race him over shorter or on the grass if need be.”
The Apache’s target at this point is the Dubai Duty Free, but he’s likely to start out in the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on the synthetic (all-weather) track. “I’m not sure he will go on the all-weather track, but we’ll see. Shea Shea will be kept to sprints and there are some decent races for speed horses on the programme. Emotif was my Triple Crown filly, but those plans are down the drain after she suffered heat stress in quarantine here.” De Kock is hoping to win a couple of nice races with Mickdaam, who he sent out to finish fourth in the UAE Derby last year. Mickdaam then spent the summer in England, where he won the Chester Vase and ran fifth in the Investec Epsom Derby. “He‘s back from a good rest and is doing very well. I’m eyeing the Sheema Classic for him.”
De Kock has two new acquisitions from Coolmore in Ireland in Await The Dawn, who has a third in the Juddmonte International to his credit, and Grade 2 winner David Livingston. “Await The Dawn is a lovely horse but he’s had a hard time and it will take a long time to get him right. David Livingston was bought for stud, but it was decided to give him a last season of racing and we’ll just have to wait and see how he goes,” De Kock said.
Mushreq is among the other horses De Kock brought from South Africa. He’s hoping the four-year-old will enjoy the synthetic surface at Meydan and can win a couple of handicaps during the Carnival.
Photo by illustration: Dubai night racibg. (Andrew Watkins).