Conduit with Ryan Moore aboard
Mike de Kock’s runner Eagle Mountain (Rock Of Gibraltar) might not have won Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf over 2400m on World Championships Day at Santa Anita, Los Angeles, but came mighty close on a day Mike de Kock said gave the South African industry good exposure.
“In all my travels around the world this was the greatest racing spectacle I’ve seen,” enthused Mike de Kock enthused after Eagle Mountain had finished a gallant second to Conduit (Dalakhani) in this $US3 million race on turf.
“There were questions asked about our industry and our horses and genuine interest was expressed,” added Mike de Kock, who became the first South African trainer to saddle a runner at America’s annual racing extravaganza, the hugely exciting presentation of which was handled with extraordinary verve by ESPN and flighted live on Tellytrack.
Eagle Mountain did everything but win. He was voted best turned out contestant on parade and his groom Patrick Ndlebe received $500 before delivering a relaxed, shiny-coated colt to jockey Kevin Shea. The jock took the four-year-old entire by Rock Of Gibraltar to the pens on an easy rein.
Eagle Mountain jumped in similarly easy fashion, overcame his wide draw and soon raced alone in fourth place. He appeared to be under no kind of pressure while Red Rock Canyon (Rock Of Gibraltar) cut a blistering gallop ahead of stablemate Soldier Of Fortune (Galileo).
The frontrunners were off the bit before they entered the home bend and at this point most South African viewers would have cried “race over” as Kevin Shea had Eagle Mountain in full cry and moved in swiftly for the kill.
“I went dizzy as they swung for home, I thought we had it in the bag and shouted like a man possessed, told Mike de Kock. Eagle Mountain surged into the lead with 300m to run. He had “winner” written all over him with 200m to go, but British Champion jockey Ryan Moore had put his foot on the pedal of early backmarker Conduit, who unleashed a riveting run in the middle of the track and literally flew past Eagle Mountain with 50m to run, to win going away. Dancing Forever shaded Soldier Of Fortune out of third place.
“This was a great run and we’re elated,” said Mike de Kock, whose charge pocketed $US660,000 for his efforts. “Kevin rode an excellent race, but the Eagle was outstayed late by the recent English St Leger winner, who had just a bit more in the tank. I have a feeling Eagle Mountain is better over 2000m and we will take him to Hong Kong next, along with JJ The Jet Plane.”
Mike de Kock said that he was looking forward to coming home. “Kevin and I will be racing at Turffontein (where the big races on the card are the R600,000 Charity Mile and the R1,25 million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup) next week and we’ll be hoping to take a prize.”
He marvelled at the Breeders’ Cup experience and said: “Gary Player is here. After the race he sent me a nice message and invited me for a game of golf tomorrow (Sunday) at one of his courses here in Los Angeles. It’s a suitable end to a great week!”