The Listed Balanchine Stakes for fillies and mares (1777m) was the feature of the eighth night of the 2008 Dubai International Racing Carnival and Sun Classique recorded a remarkable victory to complete a great night for the Dubai-based Mike De Kock team.
Kevin Shea was in the saddle on the Australian-bred four-year-old, penalised for her Group 1 win in South Africa and already the winner of the mile Cape Verdi Stakes in Dubai. No filly had previously completed the double and, a furlong out, it looked unlikely she would with Kevin Shea trapped in a pocket by Mick Kinane on Light Green.
Shea waited patiently and drove for the first gap but was again denied and had to switch round Kinane’s filly. Sun Classique then accelerated in tremendous fashion but, with less than half a furlong to go, Godolphin’s Many Colours looked to have flown but the Mike De Kock filly responded gallantly to snatch victory.
Shea was relieved: “She is a classy filly and has dug me out of a hole there. I knew she was capable of that though if I could find a gap. Once we were clear she picked up very well and is a very good and versatile racehorse.”
Comparisons with Ipi Tombe were common afterwards but Shea added the Dubai Duty Free, which Ipi Tombe won in 2003, would not necessarily be the target: “She stays further and we have a few for the Duty Free so perhaps the Sheema Classic could be on the agenda. Eagle Mountain is ruled out of that so it is a possibility.”
She was the third winner on the night for trainer and jockey; Engrupido has always been highly regarded and came out on top of a terrific duel with Herman Brown’s Alpacco in the first 10-furlong turf handicap. Kevin Shea was in the saddle as the Argentine-bred four-year-old fought bravely to gain the day with Brown’s other runner, former De Kock Carnival winner Diamond Quest, snatching third with the three separated by half a length.
Shea was also in the saddle when Frosty Secret won the following six-furlong dirt handicap and he too had to show all his tenacity to land the spoils from the Johnny Murtagh-ridden Sarissa. Never far off the pace, Shea drove his mount to the front close home to score a deserved win.
Shea said: “Both horses deserved to win. Frosty Secret had run three good races in defeat and Engrupido kept finding one too good. It has gone to plan tonight!”
Drayton enjoyed no luck in the opening 1300m turf handicap, having missed the break he was always going to struggle with traffic in a slowly run race but ran on well to take fourth.
Kayak was fourth in a quality nine-furlong handicap on dirt and far from disgraced against some proven dirt performers.
For the second time African Appeal endured traffic problems when contesting the 1777m turf handicap under Johnny Murtagh. A warm favourite after a very unlucky looking run over an inadequate 1500m last time, he was again denied racing room at a crucial stage and was not able to recover – eventually finishing seventh of the eight who raced.
Money Bags never threatened in the concluding 10-furlong turf handicap.
Extract by Peter Ward from Mike De Kock Racing