WE all know the popular saying about opinions – not appropriate to repeat on a family site like this – but yes, everybody has one and they’re all predictably different in relation to the Gr1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on turf which tops the bill on Super Saturday at Meydan.
In South Africa, where there are always personal scores to settle and points to prove in an awkward mix of racing fans, the Jebel Hatta debate seems to centre around which Mike de Kock runner will pass the post first. The actual result of the race, the issue of who will win, has taken a back seat in a virtual world that brings from obscurity any number of rocket scientists, professors and conspiracy theorists.
On the eve of this occasion we at mikedekockracing.com have the latest information from the stable, first-hand from the boss himself. However, we’re not going to commit ourselves to picking a Jebel Hatta winner between South Africa’s darling Igugu, her formidable rival The Apache and their seasoned stablemate Master Of Hounds. The winner may come from elsewhere, after all.
Instead, we’ll present you below with all the necessary bits of information about the South African trio to help you make up your mind. The problem is, it’s a tricky one for the stable too – horses make fools of men more often than not and we’d rather stay out of making a call on this one!
Let’s start with Mike’s overall view. On Friday, he explained: “There is sometimes a misconception that we have a preference for one runner over another in a closely-matched race like this. The truth is, there are dozens of variables involved in the build-up. It’s not as simple as working three horses together in an exercise gallop at home to see who wins.
“ Igugu, for one, has never been a flashy horse on the work track, she leaves her best for race day. There are often unknown factors about rival runners from other stables which makes it hard to compare them with your own. Then there are things like track conditions, pace and jockeyship. Everything plays a role in the eventual outcome of a race and one can make the wrong assessments beforehand, especially at this level.”
Mike in good spirits at his Dubai stables this week.
Now to the individuals in question:
Igugu (re-united with Anthony Delpech) needed her last run and as explained in previous articles, she contributed to her own downfall by running freely and setting course records in the first few fractions of the Balanchine, only to be beaten for breath. She is likely to run a more controlled race tomorrow.
“Igugu has improved since her third place in the Balanchine and she will improve even more after the Jebel Hatta. Tomorrow’s race has always been her mission – not the Dubai World Cup as some press reports have suggested . As things have panned out she will only be at her best on World Cup night. We may go for the Duty Free with her, depending on how she runs tomorrow.”
Mike revealed something that may or may not pose a problem for Igugu. He told: “Igugu has been in season four times since she arrived in Dubai, something I haven’t seen before. She’s just coming out of her fourth cycle now. She hasn’t had a trouble-free preparation.”
The commonly observed behavioural problems associated with mares being ‘in season’ – also known as the oestrus cycle – include tail raising, aggression, nervousness, decreased co-operation in training, unpredictable behaviour and, according to veterinary websites, ‘vulval winking’ and ‘increased interest in nearby stallions and geldings’ “
If this was a human race, the males around Igugu would probably nudge closer for a cuddle and be severely distracted, allowing her to win, but you can’t bank on that in the equine world. Plus, the fact that she’s come to the end of her cycle would suggest that she’ll be focused enough to concentrate on running her race without looking for charming suitors.
Either way the effects, if any, of Igugu’s unusual horniness in her new base will only be known after the Jebel Hatta. Mike concluded: “For all that, Igugu remains a top horse. I think she will right in the thick of things. I expect her to run well.”
Now to Christophe Soumillon’s mount, The Apache.
Mike said: “The Apache is very well and he’s had a good preparation. He doesn’t take too much work, which explains why he won such a good race first time out in Dubai. He’s improved since that run and he’s had time to recover and to get wound up for the Jebel Hatta. He’s fitter than last time. He’s a huge runner.”
Masterofhounds (Pat Cosgrave), a game customer, is not expected to win, but he is likely to give some cheek in the serious part of the contest.
Mike commented: “I’m happy with the preparation of Masterofhounds. He surprised us when he ran second after a rest in the Al Fahidi Fort. He’s another one of those horses who doesn’t take a lot of work, he likes to race fresh. I’m pleased with the way he’s come on. This is a tougher field, but he is not without an outside chance.”
So, in your opinion, how will they finish in the Jebel Hatta?