MIKE de Kock seems to “find one” every season or, as he likes to say, “the good horses find you”. There haven’t been any gap years so far – the stable’s classic runners have arrived on the scene with almost monotonous regularity. It remains exciting, however, to see every bright new prospect rise to racing’s stage, because at the start of their careers all you see is pure potential, young horses who could really become anything !
Whistle Stop is the latest example of one that falls into this category. Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai’s three-year-old gelding by Silvano pulled off a riveting Gr3 success in his third career start, winning Saturday’s Graham Beck Stakes over 1400m under jockey Anthony Delpech. (Headline photo shows Whistle Stop at the winning post – JC Photos).
Whistle Stop had three lengths to find on the more experienced Gr1 winner Willow Magic going into the last 150m, but when switched out from a railside position he changed legs (and with that gears) and ran the leader down with a storming finish, going away at the line.
Only truly talented runners can make this kind of impression at Graded level when still green and relatively immature. Delpech confirmed what looked more or less clear to the naked eye, describing Whistle Stop as a “fantastic horse”.
Delpech described Whistle Stop’s breathtaking turn of foot in the closing moments, saying: “We gave Willow Magic plenty of start and I was worried that we wouldn’t get to him. I also suspected that Whistle Stop would lay into Willow Magic (if we’d raced through on his inside), so I switched him to the outside and he took off. It will be the further better the better for him, he’s very smart!”
Mike was chuffed that his bloodstock team had “pulled one out of the fire” for Sheikh Hamdan and congratulated his patron and Whistle Stop’s breeder Mary Slack of Wilgerbosdrift Stud. “Sheikh Hamdan has been investing big in South African racing and deserves every decent horse he gets,” said Mike, who as disappointed as the next racing fan when the Sheikh’s Soft Falling Rain failed on a soppy track in the UK recently.
While Mike will be planning a comeback for the high-class Group performer at the 2014 Dubai International Carnival, he’d already be pretty confident that Whistle Stop will be among those to carry the Hamdan silks at the 2015 renewal of the UAE’s annual racing extravaganza.
Mike commented: “Whistle Stop has a lovely pedigree, being from the family of Horse Chestnut. We’ve always thought of him as a horse that will go places. We’ll be looking at the Dingaans and the Guineas for him next and he could be a Triple Crown contender next year. He’ll easily get a mile and 1800m, though I’m not sure yet whether he will see out 2400m.”