RACETRACK champions have two things in common: There are always a few stories to tell about the unique niggles and habits they show in their home environments; and when racing they invariably look like battleships sailing from a harbour among sailboats!
The most popular meaning of the word ‘Vercingetorix’ is ‘King Over Warriors’- the South African-bred five-year-old looked in a race all of his own as he gave Godolphin’s crack European Group performer True Story and a few other talented rivals a proper hiding in Thursday night’s Gr2 Al Rashidiya over 1800m on turf at Meydan.
Vercingetorix eases down as his rivals raise the white flags.
One tends to look for the “laziness” reported by Mike de Kock when Vercingetorix jumps from the pens but like a true champ he winds himself up for every big moment. Jockey Christophe Soumillon told after the race that his mount was actually somewhat frisky and keen to get on with things.
Vercingetorix took a few strides to settle down, then raced smoothly within striking distance and looked on while Sanshaawes, True Story and Mr Pommeroy were squaring each other up for the clip.
Running in Soumillon’s hands, Vercingetorix changed a gear as Sanshaawes whipped them into the straight and he was “all over them” in a matter of strides. Vercingetorix raced clear with a minimum of fuss, the only one who briefly flexed a muscle was Soumillon himself as he gave the strong galloper a reminder to stay focused going into the last 200m. They were home and dry with 100m to run and won by two lengths, giving the trainer-jockey combination their fourth successive win in the $USD200,000 contest.
Vercingetorix looked fresh and relaxed after the race, perhaps back in “lazy mode” as he shook his head a few times, cantered slowly to a halt and then walked casually up to the winner’s circle where owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and company awaited him.
Previous winners of the Al Rashidiya include subsequent Group 1 Dubai Duty Free winners Right Approach (who dead-heated in the Dubai World Cup night feature for Mike de Kock in 2004) and the Luca Cumani-trained Presvis in 2011.
Vercingetorix looks back in sleepy mode, in the winner’s enclosure with Christophe Soumillon, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and Mohammed Khaleel.
Soumillon already had his mind on the 2015 Duty Free, now the “DP World Stakes” and said afterwards: “I was disappointed to lose the Duty Free last year because I expected to win it but we were beaten by a very good horse!” (-in reference to Just A Way, the Longines World’s Best Racehorse of 2014).
“Vercongetorix is in great shape this year,” added Soumillon. “He was a really good horse last year but he felt better tonight. He is exciting.”
Mike commented: “As well as he did last year we were always trying to catch up with him as he did not travel well from South Africa. It is hard to know just how good he might be as he does the minimum in work at home and saves it for the track. He is undoubtedly a serious horse though.”
Raised at Klawervlei Stud, Vercingetorix is an entire by Silvano from National Vixen, by National Assembly. He has won seven of nine career starts.
A further report on Mike’s other Dubai runners on Thursday will follow.
See race replay here.
Photos by Andrew Watkins.