Asiatic Boy (Andrew Watkins)

Another South African who appears to be regularly in the news these days, is Mike de Kock, whom we’ve been touting for many years now as one of the world’s best trainers of racehorses, if not the best. Mike is nothing if he’s not controversial, but it has to be said that a good deal of the flak he attracted in his early days, came not only from his own spontaneity (dare, we mention, his volatility!) but particularly from the fact that he was decades ahead of his time.

Often enough, his views on racing as an industry, were controversial merely because they were at odds with what prevailed at the time, and while there was a combination of the “tall poppy” syndrome as well as the usual conservative concerns that these were the views of an upstart, in most respects, this man from the “deep south” has been vindicated in most of the things he believed in.

Today, he is the most recognizable South African in racing anywhere in the world, and it’s no understatement to describe him as an icon of the game, not only here, but wherever racing is conducted.

The UK’s Owner & Breeder magazine recently recognized his publicity value. Here are a few excerpts.

On South Africa :

“It was a good grounding”, he reminisces (of his time spent in the South African Defence Force) “Any work with horses is good grounding”.

“You just don’t know how good these horses are in South Africa, but now South Africans are desperate to try their horses abroad. More and more, South Africa will become a nursery for gathering horses for international campaigns”.

On Britain :

To thrive in Britain, Mike de Kock knows he must significantly adapt his techniques. He believes horses must be a deal fitter to race in Britain, whose varied racetracks are more demanding on a horse’s fitness. “You can go to twenty racecourses and you’ve got twenty different scenarios. But for me that’s what makes it so exciting. It’s very tactical; you’ve got to think all the time”.

“What the English have is a deep genetic pool that perhaps gives them a bit more class. I can’t afford them, but I don’t mind working with the problem horses. I’ve been doing it all my life”.

A final thought :

“If I’m told to invest in property, I head to the sales”.