MIKE de Kock used to be in the army, so time-keeping to him is important. This year, however, the most successful international trainer in the history of the Dubai World Cup Carnival is running late by a month, reports GEOFFREY RIDDLE in The National.
Because of difficulties with the movement of his horses across South Africa and flight times, 14 of his horses bound for Dubai went into quarantine in Mauritius earlier this month.
It was the second leg of their tortuous journey to compete at Meydan Racecourse during this winter’s Carnival, after passing quarantine in South Africa.
His string, which includes mostly horses owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, spent 21 days in quarantine in South Africa and now must stay on the paradise island for 90 days.
It sounds idyllic, but with the estimated cost of getting a horse from South Africa to Dubai set at around US$50,000 (Dh186,350) and the final 40 of those days spent under strictly monitored quarantine with few facilities to train, it is anything but idyllic.
From there, the horses progress to the Abington House facility in Newmarket, where they must spend a month before kicking on with a few additional stablemates to Dubai, where they will face another six days of quarantine.
It is an odyssey which severely hampers De Kock’s chances at the Carnival.
Last year was the first full season that De Kock’s horses took this circuitous route after a severe outbreak of African Horse Sickness in South Africa in 2011 saw export protocols change markedly.
De Kock’s horses all needed time to adjust in Dubai, but after a run under their belt, they flourished to hand him 15 winners at Meydan Racecourse in 88 outings.
On World Cup night, he struck with Sheikh Hamdan’s Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile and Shea Shea in the Al Quoz Sprint to accumulate just under Dh16.8 million in prize-money for the season, second only to Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor at the region’s flagship track.
Shea Shea at Abington Place, Newmarket.
Not a bad haul for a man who had to start planning that Carnival team in April 2012 and had to have a shortlist for quarantine two months later.
“I have to make the final call in June as to what I will be running in Dubai in January,” De Kock says from behind his desk, which overlooks the stables in Abington Place.
“From the day I left Dubai after the World Cup, I’ve been looking at my horses in South Africa and trying to decide which ones will be good enough.
“There are better horses at home, but some of them are only just getting going and winning now, and you try choosing which three-year-olds are going to come good so early.”
He comes armed to the teeth for this season’s Carnival. Vercingetorix, the champion three-year-old colt of South Africa, leads his equine band of brothers, while in an effort to maximise his revenue streams, De Kock is also bringing several horses to Dubai for other trainers.
The three horses include Variety Club, the South African champion miler and two-time horse of year trained by Joey Ramsden, who is being accompanied by stablemate Blueridge Mountain, who is a Group 1-winning filly.
Heavy Metal, who carried S’manga Khumalo to become the first black jockey to win South Africa’s iconic Durban July, will also come to Dubai for trainer Sean Tarry.
Other star names include Rumya, an unbeaten three-year-old filly owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, Full Combat and Mujaarib, owned by Sheikh Hamdan and Journeyman, owned by Mary Slack.
In all, nine of the 14 are owned by Sheikh Mohammed and two are owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
Alexander Palace and Master Plan will head to Singapore after a spell in Dubai for respective owners Mark Yong and Fred Crabbia, who owned Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Rocket Man