MIKE de Kock and his UK team are excited about saddling the Gr1 King’s Stand Stakes favourite Shea Shea at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. Mike said on Monday evening: “It’s a big day for us, my stable, Shea Shea’s connections and South African breeding. We’re looking forward to it. Shea Shea is well, he is ready for the race.
“It is never straightforward with all the travelling he has done. He’s been here for five weeks and seems to be coping with going uphill – it is completely different from going fast, flat and round.
Shea Shea with his groom at the weekend.
“Ascot will be different to what he’s used to, but he has been to the July Course to work up the Long Hill gallop, so he has had a good go at undulations. Horses cope with most of things we throw at them. I think the uphill finish at Ascot might suit him because he likes to get going late.”
Shea Shea was last seen winning back-to-back dashes in March, the Meydan Sprint and the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. “He’s always been a proper horse,” De Kock said of the National Emblem gelding, who won two Grade 1 races (The Golden Horse Sprint at Scottsville and the Computaform Sprint at Turffontein) in South Africa before venturing abroad. “He showed us a lot in Dubai; when he works he flies.
“Shea Shea is a very strong and tough horse. He knows what he wants and needs a strong rider to restrain him on the gallops, and getting to the start can be problematic. He needs a pony with him to go to the start and he’ll have that at Royal Ascot.
Shea Shea, stretching with Declan Cronin.
“He’s happy, his coat is good, he’s eating well and his work has been exceptional. I’m hoping he is in good form. His best form has been on fast ground, though I’m told he has won on soft. Dubai was very fast and firm and he liked that.
“Christophe Soumillon has a good feel for the horse and he will ride.
“It would be great to have the win on the CV but if you look at his form, including in South Africa, he’s either won or come nowhere. There’s no grey area in between so we hope it’s another win at Ascot.
“He has always looked like he would be competitive on a world stage, but it’s been a hell of a long road getting here,” De Kock continued. “It is difficult for us to compete because of quarantine regulations – it is not a level playing field regarding South African participation.
“It’s not a pipe-dream. He has run some very quick times. I believe he’s the real deal and he has produced world-class form. I always knew he was good but I think his performance on World Cup night in Dubai was special. He stepped up again there.”
De Kock added that winning would not just be important to the connections but would help the South African horse internationally. “Everyone enjoys watching our horses run abroad, especially at a meeting with this sort of profile – there is a lot of interest.
“There is the weight and the pressure of a nation on him. We will be doing our best and he will be doing his best. Of it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
De Kock has some other runners at Royal Ascot this week but would love to have a winner on the opening day. “I’ve left him in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Saturday) just in case something went wrong before the King’s Stand – you never know in this game – but he is to go for the July Cup following Royal Ascot.
“I think the July Cup (at Newmarket on 13 July) will suit him. He is a winner of a Group 1 over 1200m, so I don’t think there is an issue with the trip. Soft Falling Rain is also being aimed at that race after needing more time.
“I would say that Shea Shea is right there with JJ the Jet Plane, who was also an exceptional sprinter. It would be hard to choose between the two in terms of ability.”
Among his King’s Stand rivals is Australian challenger Shamexpress, who captured the 1200m Newmarket Handicap at Flemington in his latest.
“He took the trip really well, which is obviously the big thing,” trainer Danny O’Brien said. “It is a long time traveling but he seemed to handle it.
“Importantly, he is enjoying Newmarket. In the week he has been here, he has settled particularly well into his surroundings. He is a happy colt and seems to be very relaxed. All good so far.”
“He is a horse I have always had a good opinion of but it was his win in the Newmarket Handicap which sealed the trip to Royal Ascot. The Newmarket is our biggest Group 1 sprint and has been a strong pointer to past Australian success at Royal Ascot. It was a pretty easy decision to take after that.” – extracts from brisnet.com
View the King’s Stand Stakes line-up here: