CHAMPIONS Day became a day of amazing doubles for Mike de Kock’s team.
Mike and Callan Murray recorded a Gr1 double winning the SA Nursery with two-year-old Mustaaqeem and the Computaform Sprint with Rafeef (headline photo).
Mustaaqeem and Rafeef are both Australian-breds owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. They are full-brothers to boot, two years apart – the offspring of multiple Australian champion stallion Redoute’s Choice and the former South African star sprinter National Colour.
Sometimes strange puzzles fall into place on race days, though there was nothing really unexpected about the way things turned out here. Both runners had superb form coming into their respective races, both had enjoyed flawless preps and both had come to peak during the build-up.
Mustaaqeem is a monster of a two-year-old with a big, flowing action, quite comprehensively captured by a variety of camera angles as he stormed trough to beat stablemate Naafer in the R1-million Nursery.
“It was chills down the spine when Mustaaqeem came through at the 400m mark and more chills when he quickened again at the 200m mark to put them away,” enthused race caller Alistair Cohen.
Murray commented: “He’s one of the better horses I’ve sat on. We were bumped at the start so I rode him like a Maiden. At the 400m-mark it was no race. He has a lovely nature too, thanks to Sheikh Hamdan, Mike, Mathew and the team. It’s a privilege to be able to ride horses like these.”
Mike said: “This would have made Sheikh Hamdan proud and we are happy with him, he deserves the success for his big and continued support of South African racing. Mustaaqeem is a professional, he knew what to do today.
“Breeding the best to the best doesn’t always work out but in this case it has. National Colour was an unbelievably good mare, I got to know her quite well through my association with Sean Tarry and Chris van Niekerk. She finished a close second in the Nunthorpe Stakes, a proper English Gr1 sprint, a race she would have won if they didn’t change the course.
“It would be great to have Mustaaqeem as a stallion here one day, we need National Colour’s speed, for one, but I have a feeling I will get a call to ship this one out in due course,” Mike quipped.
There is a chance, however, that four-year-old Rafeef will stay in South Africa to take up stud duties. “He’s a man, he’s becoming coltish and I don’t think it will be long before he goes to stud,” predicted Mike.
Rafeef, racing with blinkers, was all over a sprinting field of pure class and disposed of them in surprisingly easy fashion, going away to beat two recognised champion sprinters in Talktothestars and Carry On Alice.
“Rafeef quickened like a machine,” said Murray, who performed machine-like himself on the day. The 20-year-old booted home his third Champions Day Gr1 when Deo Juvente edged out Legal Eagle in the Gr1 Premier’s Champions Challenge.