VERGINGETORIX, the “superior one”, sped away from his rivals in the USD175,000 Ford Taurus Trophy over 1800m on turf at Meydan in Dubai on Thursday night, keeping his unbeaten record intact after an eight-month break from racing. (Head-on, headline photo by Andrew Watkins shows Vercingetorix in the centre, holding off Code Of Honour, left and Forjatt, right).
It was five-from-five for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s game and versatile runner, who added this 9-furlong success to his wins over 1400m, 1600m and 2000m and looks set for an excellent campaign in the UAE.
In touch with the leading group turning for home, jockey Christophe Soumillon wasted no time in going for the first gap he spotted between runners. Vercingetorix quickened into space, going two lengths clear with 350m to run and held on nicely despite getting weary in the closing strides.
Soumillon commented: “He does very little at home but Mike told me he was good – and has been proved right – again. I hope he is a Dubai Duty Free horse.”
Mike confirmed that the Gr1 Dubai Duty Free, to be run over the same course and distance, was indeed highest on his agenda for four-year-old Vercingetorix, who’ll be out to better last year’s second place posted by The Apache.
Vercingetorix will bump significantly stronger fields on his way to the Duty Free and – if he gets there – in the race itself, but an important consideration will be his improvement in the six weeks leading to Dubai World Cup night.
Mike said: “One has to be impressed with the way Vercingetorix won after his long rest and keeping in mind that he travelled badly coming to Dubai. I am excited because I know how much improvement he is bound to make going forward. As I said before the race, Vercingetorix started turning the corner in the last 7-10 days, he’s been much more like himself and we’re likely to see more very good progress now.”
Sanshaawes packed too many guns for his field, won easily.
There have been a few notes of from readers and horseplayers thanking Mike for pre-race confidence given about Sanshaawes – our website preview was carried in The Citizen’s Racing Express and promoted on the paper’s street banners. Tipping to the public is a “mug’s game” – Mike hates it due to the unpredictability of racing – but this was a profitable way to start the meeting, as suggested in good faith, and followers of Mike’s Dubai previews would have backed a few more this term just reading between the lines.
Sanshaawes’ form was there for all to see and he looked a blinder on paper. He hails from the same crop as Vercingetorix and their talented contemporary, Capetown Noir, who beat him less than a length in the 2013 Investec Cape Derby over 2000m and went on to win the recent Gr1 Queen’s Plate.
It was not surprising to see the 5-1, 9-2 and 4-1 about Sanshaawes snapped up in a matter of minutes with bookmakers in his land of birth. He confirmed his liking for 2000m in the Ford Raptor Trophy (USD110,000), breaking away from the pack to win, unchallenged, under a confident Soumillon.
“It was his first start on Tapeta but he’s been working well on it and really enjoyed the surface,” said the jockey, who was pleased to boot home a winner for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s son, Sheikh Ahmed.
Sanshaawes (Christophe Soumillon) in the winner’s enclosure with Mike de Kock and his connections. Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum (right) looks on while his son Sheikh Ahmed (in olive outfit) and Yusuf Al Sayegh take the lead rope. (Andrew Watkins)
“Sanshaawes won a good race and he’s also got improvement in him. He’s equally effective on turf, and if all goes well we’ll consider a race like the Sheema Classic over 2400m for him, but it’s too soon to say, we’ll probably aim him at another handicap next.”
Mike assessed the performances of his other runners on the night:
Race 1: “Specific Gravity ran a fair race, beaten just out of the money behind Sanshaawes. He suffers from sore shins and that hampers his progress.”
Race 2: “Wednaan ran really well getting into third, this was only his second start, he was in a strong field and the winner, Long John, is a very smart horse. Full Combat was most disappointing, we were confident of a big run but he faded away after moving up early. All I can put it down to is blinkers, we fitted them for this race and if there is to be an excuse, this could be it. He’s much better than this run. Jalotta got tired late, he needed the run and will come on from this, he may also be better on turf. Journeyman was outpaced, he didn’t put much effort into it, his coltishness is costing him and he’s crying to be gelded.”
Race 3: “I was disappointed with the run of Gale Force Ten. We wanted him dropped out so he could run on, but he found himself up with the pace. He disputed matters up front and was in a position to challenge, but didn’t have much to offer when the race got serious. He shows excellent work and we thought we had him ready for a big run. He was pinged at the start and wasn’t far off Vercingetorix at the finish, but we expected more. I guess it’s back to the drawing board with him.
“El Estruendoso did us proud, he tried all the way and earned another stake cheque despite being crucified by the handicapper. Mickdaam turned last into the straight over a distance short of his best, but he stayed on strongly and this was most encouraging. The replay shows him making up good ground late, he enjoyed being back racing after a long rest. He’s a prospect for the big races coming up, he’s a Dubai World Cup hopeful.”
Race 4: “Mars wasn’t going to beat Variety Club, but we expected a little better. He ran okay, wasn’t punished and will improve, but he’s probably a better horse on turf and he needs more ground.”
Race 6: Vasily got a bump at the start of this race and just took off, as a result he was out of breath as soon as they reached the straight. I’d say this is a run to be ignored.