CHAMPION sprinting filly Via Africa (SAF) will make her first appearance at the 2015 Dubai Racing Carnival on Super Saturday, 7 March.
The Gr3 Meydan Sprint over 1000m on turf presents a tough introduction to international racing for Via Africa, who will be facing the likes of dual Gr1 Kings Stand Stakes winner Sole Power, another older ace in the form of Ahtoug and a few up-and-coming younger rivals including the five-year-old mare’s stable companion Banaadeer, and Moviesta.
Via Africa, by VAR, was bred by Gordon’s Bay-based Andre Hauptfleisch, who owns her in partnership with Albert Boshoff, whose home-bred colt Lizard’s Desire achieved phenomenal success when sold on to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum before the 2010 Dubai World Cup.
Boshoff, in particular, is a wily horse lover associated with much good fortune and Via Africa’s supporters will be hoping that her part-owner’s luck will rub off again when she goes to post in the big league.
Via Africa: Big League debut. (Gold Circle).
Mike de Kock commented: “This will be as tough a field as Via Africa has ever come across and it won’t be straight forward. She’ll be tackled for speed by a few tough male rivals and we’re hoping she can carry it through. She’s doing very well, her work has been very good especially in the last two weeks. She’s on the up, but has improvement to come and it won’t be easy for her to win this competitive race.”
Leading South African jockey Gavin Lerena has been booked to ride Via Africa – his first chance to show his skills in the UAE and one the former Champion Apprentice is keen to convert successfully.
Banaadeer (Paul Hanagan) made marked improvement in his most recent outing, beaten a length and a quarter by Caspian Prince over the course and distance. He’s 1kg better off with his conqueror at the weights and must have a money chance again. “Banaadeer is very fit now and this is a good test for him,” Mike opined.
It will be an exciting and busy afternoon for the De Kock team and the action starts in the Listed Al Bastakiya over 1900m on dirt. Mubtaahij (Dane O’Neill) and Ajwad (Christophe Soumillon) will represent Blue Stables in this curtain-raiser for the UAE Derby on World Cup night.
‘’Both runners are improving and in good nick, Mubtaahij is the stable elect. Christophe can’t make the weight on Mubtaahij, but Dane gets on well with him. We’ll have to see what happens, Godolphin has entered an unbeaten horse in the race we’ll have to contend with,” said Mike.
Pylon: The SA sand specialist will need his first Dubai run. (JC Photos)
South Afican-bred sand specialist Pylon (Lerena) will have his own baptism of fire in the Gr3 Burj Nahaar over a mile on dirt and Mike told that this one was short of peak fitness due to a few hiccups in training. “Pylon is doing well of late, but he really needs this run.”
Mickdaam (Soumillon) and Umgiyo (Johnny Geroudis) will come under starter’s orders in the Gr2 Dubai City Of Gold over 2410m on turf, a race Mike has won before with Grey’s Inn (2004), Oracle West (2005) and Front House (2009).
“Mickdaam ran on very well last time and he’s doing fine, but this race is at level weights and he will have to up his game out of a handicap. Umgiyo is smart, he stayed on for second to a top horse over 2000m last time and my gut feel says he’ll see out the extra, he should run a big race.”
The top horse referred to in the Umgiyo formline is of course Godolphin’s 116-rated Hunter’s Light, who will be out to spoil the party for Mike’s six-strong onslaught on the Gr1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on turf that tops the seven-race programme.
Vercingetorix: Seeks Jebel Hatta double. (Andrew Watkins).
The Jebel Hatta has fallen to the stable four times, the winners being Ipi Tombe (2003), Surveyor (2004), Master Of Hounds (2012) and Vercingetorix, who won the 2014 renewal and will be defending his title with Soumillon in the irons in the company of stablemates Anaerobio (Richard Mullen), Flying The Flag (Geroudis), Darwin (Hanagan), Johann Strauss (O’Neill) and Sanshaawes (Lerena).
Mike rated his runners: “Vercingetorix is in excellent form and has a good chance of following up, he’s enjoyed a good preparation. Flying The Flag won a nice race for us last week, he’s yet to prove himself in this class however and this is a last chance for him to prove that he can rise to the occasion to have any chance of racing on World Cup night. Darwin ran on over 1600m last time but is a bit suspect over 1800m.
“Johann Strauss is an exciting horse, as I’ve said before. It’s a pity we’ve had to rush him into this race, but that’s the way it goes in the Carnival. Sometimes one has no choice. He’s very well and we’re taking our chances, expecting a good run. Anaerobio will probably retire after this race, he earned a stake last year. Sanshaawes is also approaching the end of his career, we’re hoping he can step up to the plate. He has place prospects.”