MIKE de Kock told anybody who would listen last year that Heavenly Blue was a Classic horse whose mission would be the SA Classic and SA Derby. JACK MILNER spoke to Mike about Saturday’s Gr1 SA Derby.
The Australian-bred son of Snitzel won the Grade 1 Classic over 1800m by almost three lengths and now the focus is on the R2-million Derby over 2450m at Turffontein on Saturday.
Only eight horses will go to post and it will take a brave punter to go against Heavenly Blue pulling off the Grade 1 double.
The manner of his victory in the Classic surprised many pundits because jockey Callan Murray had him quite a long way back turning for home but shortly after coming into the straight Heavenly Blue took off and in strides had hit the front and gone clear.
The big question is whether he will see out 2450m.
“Well, it’s always going to be the one doubt we have,” said Mike. “He’s a son of Snitzel so on his sire’s side he’s not bred for the trip but there is stamina on the female line.
“Horses are not always bred for the Derby distance and usually it’s their class that sees them through.”
That has been borne out in the past when horses such as Elusive Fort won the Derby but he definitely was not a natural stayer.
The other question is who will go out and set the pace. It is worth noting that Mike does not have a second runner to ensure a good pace. In fact, he would be quite satisfied with the opposite outcome.
“I’m not unhappy about the fact there is unlikely to be pace.”
He added that after the Derby, should all things go a according to script, Heavenly Blue will be aimed at the Durban July and then he could be heading off to Australia.
“I have discussed his future with all his connections and at this stage we are all keen to get the horse to Australia to race there. We will see how he comes out of his next two starts but his real value lies in Australia.”
With Al Sahem having finished ahead of Heavenly Blue in the Grade 2 Betting World Gauteng Guineas, Sean Tarry’s charge started a marginal favourite for the Classic.
Tarry admits Al Sahem was caught flat-footed by the De Kock charge. “Heavenly Blue picked him up in a matter of strides and we were off the bit,” he said.
“But I think I now must have him very close to his best. The distance should be fine. Heavenly Blue definitely looks the horse to beat but I’m Al Sahem is the best I’ve had him and I believe he will get the trip.
“He’s only raced four times and with every run he was going to improve.”