THE 2012/13 Nation Trainers’ Championship is heading for the type of showdown last seen when the battle between Mike de Kock and Charles Laird went down the to the last meeting of the season in 2007/8.
Mike won his fourth title that year by just over R100,000 and another three titles since, but his eighth title, which looked reasonably safe until Saturday’s Durban July meeting, is now under threat from Sean Tarry.
Tarry’s runners were on fire at the big meeting, banking near R3-million on the day for the stable and heading Mike’s tally by approximately R160,000 after the weekend’s racing. (Official NHA figures show Mike to be about R30,000 ahead of Sean after Sunday’s meeting- Ed.)
Our figures are not official, but Sean’s gross stakes shot up to R15,823,675 with Sunday’s Turffontein meeting taken into account, with Mike on R15,662,637.
With three weeks to go of the 2012/13 season, Mike and Sean, good friends away from the racetrack, are sure to be the subject of bookmaker’s odds as their runners go to post in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Mike kept the pot boiling with two Listed wins on July day at Greyville and two minor wins at Turffontein’s two weekend meetings.
Anthony Delpech rode two well-timed finishes to win the Thukela Handicap over 1600m on Lehaaf (headline photo) and the eThekwini Sprint on Desert Sheik over 1200m on Desert Sheik.
Lehaaf was strongly fancied and, backed from an opening call of 6-1 to 3-1, plugged away gamely to hold off Port Elizabeth raider Blaze Of Fire in a driving finish.
A three-year-old gelding by Excellent Art, Lehaaf is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Al Adiyaat South Africa. He has won four of ten starts.
Fast-improving Desert Sheik looked in trouble with 150m to run but he, too, dug down gamely to thwart a late challenge from Kingston Boy by a short-head.
Owned by the partnership of De Kock, the Jooste family, Bernard Kantor and Gaynor Rupert, Desert Sheik has won five from 9 and is one to keep an eye on in Graded sprints next season.
Santa Clarita (Marco van Rensburg) and Tamayim (Chamu Mabaya) were successful for the stable in Gauteng, taking Mike’s seasonal tally to 158 winners, just five short of his career best.
Desert Sheik wins the eThekwini Sprint.