Blue Stables are something of a sad sight. Once they were full of horses and with a South African flag flying proudly outside. Now there are just a couple of heads poking over the doors and the trophies in the office date back a few years.
We can’t even blame Covid-19 for the demise of the Dubai branch of Mike De Kock’s hugely successful business.
The travails began way before that, when a ban on the direct import of horses from South Africa to the European Union began in 2013, due to an outbreak of African Horse Sickness. Since then, De Kock’s string have had to travel to Dubai via the UK, and only then after first spending 30 days in quarantine in Mauritius.
The ban on direct travel effectively keeps the horses away from the track for six months, meaning inevitable loss of fitness as well as racing opportunities. As a result, De Kock has slipped from training 16 winners in the UAE in 2011, to just one in 2020. His last Dubai World Cup meeting success was with Mubtaahij in the UAE Derby, back in 2015.
Now, De Kock spends less time in Dubai and more in South Africa, where his runners continue to plunder top races with regularity, Queen Supreme’s G1 Paddock Stakes and Malmoos’ Gauteng Guineas being the latest big successes. The current world #12 trainer wants more, though, and is planning a return to the glory days in Dubai, as well as using it as a base from which to send horses to Australia, where his son Mathew has entered into a training partnership with successful trainer and former jockey Robbie Griffiths.