South Africans will come away from Dubai with a generally satisfied perspective. Mike de Kock’s team had a signature evening with no fewer than five money earners, including a staggering victory by Asiatic Boy in the UAE Derby, while Herman Brown’s Linngari ran a huge race in the $5 million Duty Free, missing out by a diminishing ½ length. To top it all South African trainers and jockeys led home a one-two in the Sheema Classic, though the night was not without its disappointments.
This is not the time for post-mortems though. The fact we were there, competing at the world’s richest and most cosmopolitan race meeting, is a cause celebre in itself and as a nation, we can applaud our horses, our people and their achievements, and more importantly, we can face the future with some confidence. At least four of the meeting’s South African-connected athletes have cracked the nod for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s International meeting at the end of April on the strength of their performances, including our own Mullins Bay.
Given his horrid preparation, this fellow gave us the run of his life in the Godolphin Mile. It was as if he knew he’d been elected the pick of the paddock by the judges on hand, and in a race which got away at a suicidal lick, he vindicated our faith in his tactical speed by overcoming his outside draw within the first two furlongs, to be just behind the pace.
The fractions for the race were scary, yet “Mullins”, short of condition as he was, refused to yield through both bends and then almost remarkably, when the whole field was flat to the boards going through the “500”, he found an extra gear and pulled himself to the front, a lead he held right to the 250 metre mark. That he managed third in the end, at a trip well short of his best these days, says a great deal for a horse described by the international press earlier in the week as “gifted”, yet we should remember that it took a masterful training feat and a world class ride to get him there in the first place.
Lest we forget, toiling behind him were some of the world’s higher ranked milers, Godolphin’s Court Masterpiece (5) and Killybegs (14th), as well as the much vaunted Dixiemeister (from the US) and Japan’s Fusaichi Richard. No, this was no ordinary performance in the toughest of circumstances and Mike de Kock had little hesitation in proclaiming Mullins Bay his QE11 horse for Hong Kong, where he is more than familiar with the winner’s podium, having taken the race with Irridescence twelve months back.
From a South African breeding perspective, and more intimately, for those connected with Summerhill, here is a man we can go to war with. He carries the pedigree of a prince, he has a commanding presence, and we know he is racehorse. He’ll be the apple of just about everyones’ eyes come “Racing’s Biggest Day Out” on the first Sunday in July. No doubt, our team will take pride in the unveiling of Mullins Bay at the Summerhill Stallion Day.
(Photographs courtesy of Heather Morkel)