MIKE de Kock has slammed the decision of the panel that selected the final field for the 2013 Vodacom Durban July, to omit Rock Cocktail.
The final field for the R3.5-million race to be run over 2200m at Greyville on Saturday 6 July was announced on Tuesday and although he has a merit rating of 105, which is higher than six of the runners that did make the field, Rock Cocktail’s name does not appear among the twenty names that constitute the 2013 line-up.
Mike, angered by Rock Cocktail’s omission, commented: “Every year I expect the worst from the Gold Circle panel and I’m rarely disappointed. All they have done is to confirm what everybody already knows – that they’re incompetent!’’
On the conditions of Vodacom Durban July selection, Gold Circle states: “It is an express condition of this race that the Company reserves the right to exclude any horse, which, in its opinion, does not warrant inclusion in the race. In addition, the Company shall have the right to exclude any horse at Declaration Stage, and to decide on the final field for the race.’’
Gold Circle have also been publishing a log which “will reflect all the horses, in order of preference, as to the make-up of the final field at the time of publication. Factors used will include the horses current Merit Rating, its current racing form and competitiveness in the Graded and Listed stakes program over the past year.’’
As it happened, the final July log was published on 4 June, before final supplementary entries. It was only at that stage that Rock Cocktail was supplemented into the race. As a result, no log giving any indication of where Rock Cocktail, and the filly Jet Belle, would fit in was ever released publicly.
Mike’s decision to enter Rock Cocktail into the July was based on his second place behind Jet Explorer in the Grade 2 Betting World 1900 and his fifth behind Vercingetorix in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000, beaten only a length. Wylie Hall was just 0.75 lengths ahead of him in the Daily News while Wild One was 2.50 lengths behind. Both those runners cracked the nod from the panel.
On the basis of his Daily News run the handicapper raised Rock Cocktail’s merit rating from 90 to 105. There was no adjustment to Wild One, which indicates that he ran to his rating, which is 10 points lower than Rock Cocktail.
“What makes me suspicious is that there is no transparency. My nose twitches because of the manner it is done,’’ said Mike. “Everything happens behind closed doors.”
He added: “I am quite happy to expose my horses but clearly I am wrong. You must not be open. You must duck and dive or be an owner or trainer who is very matey with members of the panel. Year in and year out, the Gold Circle panel manages to sour South Africa’s biggest racing spectacle.’’
Mike felt the betting would have reflected that his runner had a chance. “Rock Cocktail would have been fifth or sixth in the betting. There would have been a market. Some of their selections will hardly attract a bet.
“Our horse aside, I am surprised that Geoff Woodruff’s 103-rated runner, Tellina, wasn’t deemed good enough to take his place in the July. For example, there is nothing on form between Tellina and Love Struck, who was included in the final twenty. Some years ago the Graded Stakes Committee debated having the SA Derby downgraded to a Grade 2 race, despite the many champions that had won it. This year the Gold Circle panel seems to have favoured the Derby form above the Daily News form. But perhaps I’m being too harsh on the panel. My owners and I have gotten used to the transparent processes and levels of professionalism in racing jurisdictions in other parts of the world.”
Woodruff commented about Tellina: “His omission makes a mockery of the selection criteria. I think they’ve done a disservice to the owner.’’