“MAGIC MIKE” would have been a suitable headline for this article after Mike de Kock was the toast of Meydan with three Dubai Carnival winners on Thursday night, including a 1-2-4 in the Gr2 Al Rashidiya and a 1-2-3 in the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa Handicap.
We decided instead on race caller Terry Spargo’s praise, “Mike’s a Magician”, considering that the term “Magic Mike”, while good for website search optimisation and extra hits, could lead readers to confuse our trainer for actor Channing Tatum’s erotic-dancing character in the movie of the same name.
While trainer Mike may argue that his biceps are of similar size, the only real comparison to be made is in celebrity status, though one flexes his muscles on the racetrack and the other in Hollywood.
The head-on view of our headline photo: Anerobio (red cap, middle), grabs Banaadeer (right) near the line. Royal Ridge (left), nips at their their heels in third.
(Thanks for another set of great photos by R. Andrew Watkins).
Racing so often imitates the ups and downs of life, as do Hollywood blockbusters – and Mike, speaking after the meeting, told how the evening’s treble-scoring high was harshly and unexpectedly balanced by two lows.
Royal Ridge, who ran on powerfully for third in the Bab Al Shams, collapsed and died of a heart attack while being hosed down after the race. Rock Cocktail was not persevered with in the closing handicap – he was pulled out of the race before the bend and found to have broken his pelvis.
Mike lamented: “Royal Ridge ran the best race of his career in Dubai. He looked very well and came running along hard late in the contest. Jockey Dane O’Neill came back full of praise afterwards, explaining how well Royal Ridge had felt accelerating under him. Moments later the horse was dead.
“Rock Cocktail was taken to the Equine Hospital and we’ll be waiting for a report on his condition. These incidents just brought us back to earth after a truly mesmerising evening, our runners made us very proud tonight.”
Forries Waltz got the better of Ertijaal after a duel in the home run.
Forries Waltz (Grey’s Inn) gave the stable a fifth successive win in the Al Rashidiya over 1800m on turf – an eighth win in total – and racing fans around the world were treated to a duel between the South African-bred under Christophe Soumillon and the Aussie-bred South African Ertijaal in the hands of Paul Hanagan.
Mike said: “Fitness prevailed over class tonight, Forries Waltz got the better of Ertijaal, but the runner-up was impressive too and he will make big improvement after this. He has a sand pedigree, being by Hard Spun, and we’ll keep the sand in consideration when we plan the rest of his campaign.
“Let’s not take anything away from Forries Waltz. He rose to the occasion in good, solid style and is becoming a horse of note. Well done to my partners Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and Chris Gerber and kudos again to Rennie Price, a small-time quality breeder whose heart would have skipped a few beats tonight. For a breeder, there’s nothing like international success to crown hard work in this competitive industry.”
Mujaarib was nosed out of third in the race, giving of his best again, and he runs like a horse who can win again over 2000m. While the limits of the Carnival may not allow this, he’s a happy horse, as Mike has noted, and his connections and supporters will be hoping their game seven-year-old can pull off another win wherever he is placed next.
Another horse who is clearly enjoying the benefits of maturity is Mohammed Khaleel’s eight-year-old Anaerobio (Catcher In The Rye), described by Mike as “a member of our family”. Soumillon, also at the peak of his powers, drove long arms and a swinging whip into this old-timer in pursuit of free-striding Banaadeer and caught him on the line to win by a short-head, the ill-fated Royal Ridge a further three-quarters back in third.
“Anaerobio responded to Christophe’s urgings like a horse half his age. He could’ve shirked the issue and turned it up, but he fought like a Trojan to win his fourth race for us, the ninth of his career. Just when we thought of retiring him he’s shown us he’s not done yet!”
Khaleel told Dubai Racing: “I am so lucky to have this horse and he is a real favourite of my family and in the yard. He had 60kgs to carry tonight which was a concern for me but he is a real star and has been a great servant to us all.”
Banaadeer came close to giving Sheikh Hamdan his second win at the meeting following Alareef’s success in the opener. With his good five-furlong speed Banaadeer had his rivals off the bit a long way out and he was arguably unlucky to have bumped an older piece of cast iron with a point to prove. “This was more like it and Banaadeer saw it out. We’re very happy with this run, he’ll have his confidence back and we’ll have more options now,” Mike said.
Alareef, well-deserved first Dubai win.
Alareef (Stronghold), with all recently-added equipment removed, posted his first Dubai win in a 1400m Handicap on dirt that opened proceedings. “We’ll look for another suitable handicap for Alareef, he probably won’t qualify for the bigger races,” Mike assessed.
One more runner who made his presence felt on the night was Meydan newcomer Liquid Mercury (SAF), who finished just out of the money in a Handicap over 1600m. The imposing grey by Trippi was Gr1 placed over 2000m and won a Gr3 over 2400m in his home country, which makes this debut at international level very promising.
Anyone who has seen the 1959 box-office spectacular Ben Hur will remember the fearless Charlton Heston crashing through enemy lines on a chariot pulled by awesome white horses. Chances are jockey Sam Hitchcott thought he was in a 2016 remake of the film on Liquid Mercury, who was so full of running he almost barged through a wall of rivals before being pulled to the outside for an eye-catching finish.
On the whole, Blue Stables performed with great distinction in the eyes of the racing world and Mike concluded: “South African-breds are once again doing the job from limited opportunities and besides that horses with South African form like Ertijaal and Paul Lafferty’s Harry’s Son have shown their mettle. I’ve said it many times and I will say it again – let the world take notice. South African thoroughbreds are the best value for money on the planet, even more so now with our weak currency. The floodgates will open for us once export protocol issues are resolved!”
Well done Mike
Another fantastic performance by who is undoubtedly one of the nation’s greatest ambassadors.
Fantastic night. Congrats to the team. As I’ve said at the start of the Carnival, I’m sensing greatness this season for Mike de Kock. Plenty of success ahead. Keep rolling MDK.
Just as the American public denied American Pharaoh due recognition in being voted Sportsperson of the Year after winning all before him and being the first horse to win the Triple Crown for decades, so the South African Government and public are guilty of not truly recognising the genius of Mike de Kock and his team.
To overcome the stringent requirements and compete in Dubai is probably harder on the horse than it is on the people and to travel to the many continents that they have and succeed the way they have is truly remarkable and made RSA a force to be reckoned with now and certainly into the future. How great to
be able to watch the significant successes of Team de Kock and their horses last night in Meydan was thrilling. Congratulations and we will be watching until and beyond the Dubai World Cup.
This isn’t to take away from the general point you’re making about the challenges of shipping – but American Pharoah (misspelling intended!) did win the popular vote for Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year,” by quite a large margin. The magazine staff then made a selection at their own discretion.