“Racing’s pioneering international trainer”

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THE UK’s Daily Mail has named Mike de Kock ‘racing’s pioneering international handler’, one who belongs to a “new breed of trainer flourishing on a belief that no race in the world is too far away”.

Mike (49) is internationally acknowledged as a leader in the training profession and he has a host of supporters who firmly believe he has few or no equals. Passionate and progressive, he has improved his results year on year for 24 years and in 20012/13 saddled a stable record, 164 winners.

Mike doesn’t hail from a racing background, but as a youngster he nurtured his dreams of training thoroughbred horses and travelling the world.

He grew up near the old Newmarket racecourse in Alberton, South Africa and counted among his early school friends David Ferraris, today a successful trainer in Hong Kong.

Mike at 23.

To establish a base of knowledge, he joined the SA Defence Force’s Equestrian Unit at 18. He attributes his trademark skill of getting his horses super fit to his two years in the army, a period in which he was required to prepare them for combat and endurance races.

David gave Mike a foot in the door to the stable of master trainer Ormond Ferraris. Here he was taught the principle of attention to detail, a vital aspect which lies today at the heart of his success, so much so that his family and friends will confirm that Mike, the individual, is as sharp as a razor blade and “never misses anything”!

Mike worked as a stable assistant in a few other training yards and was “penniless, frustrated and ready to back-pack around the world” when his big break came along.

His then boss, trainer Ricky Howard-Ginsberg, passed away unexpectedly, leaving the 23-year-old in charge of a 50-strong racing string. The stable’s patrons had been impressed by the young Mike’s natural way with horses and his stable management and decided unanimously to leave their runners in his care.

Mike saddled his first winner as a licenced trainer within a few weeks, in December 1988. His first Group 1 triumph came after only fourth months later when the filly Evening Mist won the Administrator’s Champion Stakes at Turffontein.

Way back when, at an awards function with the owners of Evening Mist

Committed to living his dream Mike has enjoyed astonishing worldwide success in his 24 years of training. An eight times National Champion Trainer in South Africa, Mike has won every major race in his country of birth at least once, including four Durban July Handicaps, two J&B Mets and a record nine Summer Cups.

He has prepared over 2500 winners, including 95 Group 1s. In the first half of 2010 alone, he had 11 Group 1 successes to his name, more than any other trainer on the globe.

He’s won races on four continents in places like England, the USA, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai and says: “It’s like a golfer wanting to play the majors. I want to be competitive at all the best meetings, that’s my ambition. If I have the right horse for a big race anywhere in the world, I want to be able to go there and do it.

“To travel you have to get your head around not being there every day. You have to be able to delegate and trust the people who work for you that they give you the right information and carry out what you want them to do,” he told Daily Mail.

He regards Dubai as his home away from home and after a steady stream of high-profile wins was spotted by Sheik Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, the first cousin to the ruler of Dubai.

Mike with Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

In Sheikh Mohammed he found a principal owner with similar ambitions. In a relatively short spell together they’ve won Group 1 races in Hong Kong and Singapore and were pipped in the 2010 Group 1 Dubai World Cup, a success which can’t be far away.

Mike is the second-most successful trainer  in the history of the Dubai Racing Carnival, only a small margin behind Saeed bin Suroor of the world-renowned Godolphin.

In recent years Mike has rattled cages all over the world with stars like Asiatic Boy, Eagle Mountain, Archipenko and Lizard’s Desire and has also acquired the support of Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai, whose runner Soft Falling Rain is an international Gr1 contender. Mike still regards his erstwhile South African Triple Crown winner Horse Chestnut as the best he has  trained.

The great Horse Chestnut, winning his only start in the US.

A keen golfer, Mike has teed up several times in the Dunhill Links Pro-Am, courtesy of his friendship with ISM Golf guru “Chubby Chandler”, golfer Lee Westwood and business tycoon Johann Rupert, who are patrons in the stable.

In September 2010 Mike launched his range of Feed, “De Kock Horsemix”, in conjunction with Epol, making it available to all trainers. More info here.

Mike is married to Diane, who pre-trains the stable’s young and unraced horses. They have a son Mathew (who has joined his dad as an assistant) and daughter Kirsten, who has her sights set on a career in dancing.

Extracts from this article were taken from “Globetrotter De Kock is moving with the times” by Mark Jeffreys, Daily Mail, UK, October 2008.

Ipi Tombe, the star filly who kickstarted Mike’s international career in Dubai, 2003.