MIKE de Kock will have a strong hand in Saturday’s Daily News 2000 at Greyville Racecourse and is happy with all three of his contestants, Vercingetorix, Patriotic Rebel and Rock Cocktail.
He also runs the filly Al Kindi in the Woolavington 2000.
De Kock said that the Silvano colt Vercingetorix, winner of the Grade 2 KRA Guineas and likely favourite on Saturday, was still immature, so would have natural improvement.
He reckoned he would have no problem with the 2000m trip.
He is out of a National Assembly mare that has produced speedy sorts like Never Forever, Trinity House and Allocation, but all three of those horses were by the sprint-miler Captain Al, while Silvano was a 2000m horse.
Those who have ridden Vercingetorix describe him as still a “big baby”, so he has plenty of scope and is in the right yard for an improving horse.
His run in the KRA Guineas took De Kock by surprise.
He finished strongly, despite being caught a bit wide in the running and then tending to hang inward in the straight.
He then held off the late charging odds-on favourite Capetown Noir, so all the signs of a good horse in the making are there, although the proximity of the 83-rated Corredor, who finished 2,3 lengths back in third, is a bit of a concern.
De Kock was bullish about Patriotic Rebel, the former Brett Crawford-trained horse that ran a 1,1 length fourth behind Capetown Noir in the Investec Cape Derby.
In his first run for the De Kock yard last Wednesday at Greyville in a Pinnacle Stakes race over 1400m at Greyville, the Stronghold gelding finished last, but was only 7,7 lengths behind the superstar Variety Club, with whom he was 2kg better off than weight for age.
De Kock said, “He is doing extremely well and I like what I see with this horse.”
He had said before that last start that Patriotic Rebel would “need the run badly”.
Yesterday, he said, “I thought he ran a very good race to finish just over seven lengths off Variety Club. He has come on nicely, I’m very, very happy and all is well with him. I think he can run a big race.”
De Kock said that Rock Cocktail was a tough horse, which was one of the reasons he could race him regularly.
He said, “He is a big horse and is hard to keep fit. He might be just short of the best and could be a handicapper, but this run will expose him and give us a better idea of how good he is.”
The Australian-bred colt by Rock Of Gibraltar won over 1800m at Clairwood on May 15 and then ran second in the Grade 2 Betting World 1900 just a week later.
He ran a fine race considering he was cramped on the rail turning for home, which affected his momentum.
The Betting World 1900 was run as a conditions race, meaning placed horses were not given merit rating raises, so he is better than his rating of 90 suggests.
Vercingetorix, merit rated 107, is well drawn in three in the 18 horse line-up that includes two reserve runners.
Patrotic Rebel, merit rated 95, is drawn right out at 17 and Rock Cocktail is drawn beautifully in two.
Al Kindi was a bit disappointing in the Johannesburg features this season after winning a Novice Plate in good style over 1600m last October.
However, she ran over the Woolavington trip for the first time at Clairwood last time out in the Listed East Coast Handicap and ran a fine race, coming from last to finish a 0,25 lengths runner up to the progressive four-year-old Adobe Pink.
De Kock said, “It looks like we’re all running for third (behind Cherry On The Top and Blueridge Mountain), but I think the further she goes the better she will be and in my opinion the firmer the ground the better for her. She is a rock solid filly in terms of soundness.”
Al Kindi is drawn six in the eight horse field.
De Kock scratched Izora from the Woolavington.
He said, “She hasn’t been working as well as she should be.”
Headline photo: Patriotic Rebel, set to improve.