MIKE de Kock and Christophe Soumillon won Thursday night’s USD200,00 Al Rashidiya over 1800m on Meydan’s turf track in Dubai for the third time running. (The headline photo by Andrew Watkins shows Soumillon low down on Mujaarib, keeping his mount going in a tight finish).
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Mujaarib held on to win by a neck from stablemate Mushreq, whose spirited late challenge made it a memorable night for the same owner. De Kock and Soumillon also took the laurels when Musir won the Gr 2 race in 2012 and The Apache claimed the prize in 2013.
The race is named after an upper-class locality area near Dubai International Airport, where residents will be considering freedom of the region for South Africa’s Champion Trainer.
The stable’s remarkable record in the Al Rashidiya started ten years ago. Between 2004 and 2010, when the race was contested over 1777m, Mike won it three times with Right Approach (Kerrin McEvoy, 2004), Wolf Whistle (Weichong Marwing, 2005) and Silver Mist (Kevin Shea, 2008), while Surveyor (2nd in 2004), Grey’s Inn (2nd in 2006), Oracle West (2nd in 2007) and Irish Flame (4th in 2011), got pretty close too.
A third Al Rashidiya trophy apiece for Mike de Kock and Christophe Soumillon. (Andrew Watkins).
Mike was cautiously optimistic about Mujaarib’s chance before this year’s renewal, predicting a decent Dubai campaign and good improvement to come, but Mushreq was the pick of the pair and Soumillon confirmed: “I was pretty hopeful my fellow would run well as he has been working nicely enough but I did not think we could beat Mushreq. When we saw daylight he really quickened but he was tiring so the post appeared just in time.”
As Mike pointed out, Mujaarib’s South African form had looked quite useful with the benefit of hindsight applied on his last few runs on home turf. Now it’s been franked and a pointer’s been provided to the Dubai prospects of SA’s star galloper Variety Club. He is several lengths superior to Mujaarib on paper and his UAE debut is eagerly awaited.
“I’m as surprised as anyone – I did not think Mujaarib could win. He’s a smart horse but we felt he’d improve for the run. He’s had a lot of problems in his life but Sheikh Hamdan has been very patient. Mushreq was probably a bit unlucky he didn’t get out but we’ll take that with both hands.”
Another line of 2013 form through Variety Club was given some credibility when Master Plan finished just over four lengths off the winner in the evening’s final race, a competitive handicap over 2000m. Master Plan was some way off his peak and on this run should make his presence felt during the remainder of the Carnival.
Mike said that Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s four-year-old Zahee, an easy winner of a turf handicap over 1400m under Soumillon, earlier, was also set to pay his way this term.
“Zahee had a good spell here last year, but he arrived late and we didn’t have time to get the best from him. He’s stronger now and he’s a capable horse. I think he can be followed at the Carnival this year.”
Zahee was ‘all over’ his rivals with 200m to run. He stretched clear well under the in-form Soumillon.
Mike said that Zahee would have some prospects of a shot at one of the dollar-strong features on Dubai World Cup night. “If he does get all the way there he would probably be a Godolphin Mile contender.”
Soumillon said: “Zahee travelled nicely and, once we found racing room, picked up well. He has run on strongly which was pleasing considering we thought he would need the run. I am not sure how good a race it was but he might be able to build on this.”
Highly-rated Mensoora, stepping out first time in Dubai after a long rest and illness, acquitted herself well in a strong renewal of the Cape Verdi over 1600m. Mensoora was thrown in the deep end here, she had some proven Gr1 talent around her, all older fillies and mares. She seemed a bit above herself on parade and was clearly in need of race fitness. But she was near the pace for a long way and only beaten eight lengths, running out of steam over the last 250m.
Approaching his 50th birthday, Mike would have been in bed long before Meydan’s floodlights were switched off and he wouldn’t have lost any sleep. Mensoora did enough to prove that the stable’s assessment of her ability looks more or less on the mark. Going forward, she will be hard to beat against fillies of her own age group.
I bumped into Steven Jell at CT Int this afternoon. That should have been enough. Well done Maestro.
Awesome achievement. Too Good my son.
Year after year, Mr de Kok! How ever do you do it?
Brilliant! What an exacta as expected. Salute MDK