MIKE de Kock had to wait until near sunset on Saturday afternoon to put his name on the board of important triumphs on Champions Day at Turffontein, but a pair of Grade 2 winners came in quick succession to round off what culminated in another successful big race day for the stable.
Summerhill-bred Checcetti (headline photo) returned to her best form to win the Bisquit Cognac Gerald Rosenberg Stakes over 2000m and Avontuur Stud’s Canterbury Tale plugged away relentlessly to hold off champion stayer Seal in the Gold Bowl over 3200m.
Mike is no stranger to the race named after the late Mr Rosenberg, one of Highveld racing’s former chief administrators who was still in good health back in 1989, when race meetings often were held on Wednesday afternoons at the great Newmarket, and Evening Mist bagged the trainer his first Graded feature.
He’s won it a few times since, but monotony in racing does not exist for those who truly love the sport and Checcetti provided a good measure of satisfaction along with her 1.25-length victory.
Mike commented: “I wanted to retire Checcetti last season but her owners were keen for her to compete another year so this is a nice reward for their confidence. We rested her, sent her back to Summerhill. She improved in her last run and in the last two weeks really came to hand showing good work and getting dapples in her coat. Well done to Marco van Rensburg, who rode a perfect race.”
Throughout the race Van Rensburg, who is regaining the promise he showed as an apprentice several years ago, closely tracked Piere Strydom’s mount Cherry On The Cake . Strydom, the master tactician, employed his seasoned tactics of alternatively stepping on the pedal and then slowing down and, as he is known to do, left a bit in the tank for a late rattle.
But when Strydom gave the tiring Cherry on the Cake her first breather racing through the 400m-mark, Van Rensburg put his own foot down, raced on by and took the contest by the scruff of the neck.
Van Rensburg said: “Mr De Kock had a feeling that Piere would go out to set the pace and told me to follow him and hope for the best. I wanted to sit a while longer, but I knew she was fit. I pulled her out and she responded strongly.”
Checcetti is owned by the partnership of Tony Moodley, who reportedly hugged the couch in his fine hillside abode while his son had to do course duty, Mike de Kock, Mick Goss’ Summerhill Syndicate and Vanessa Harrison.
Canterbury Tale, as predicted by Mike in his pre-race comments, proved his last run all wrong, fighting on well under Raymond Danielson for a workmanlike win in the Gold Bowl, and stamping himself as a Gold Cup contender.
A very fit Canterbury Tale kept up a steady gallop in the Gold Bowl.
Mike briefly put in a well-deserved PR word for his former star inmate Greys Inn, who sired Canterbury Tale, saying: “Greys Inn had a good juvenile winner during the week and now one of his sons has won the Gold Bowl. He’s a good value sire!”
Then, Mike lamented the fact that a Win double on Checcetti and Canterbury Tale could have “got a man out of it if I had any balls” (to the tune of roughly 110-1!) Both runners had been showing the kind of work at home that in days of yore would have warranted a man-sized betting strike.