Mike de Kock
(John Lewis)

“When Archipenko gets on an aeroplane he thinks he is going on holiday,’’ quipped South Africa’s newly crowned Champion Trainer Mike de Kock from Chicago yesterday.

Mike de Kock Racing reports this morning that Archipenko has been priced up 2-1 favourite for tomorrow’s Arlington Million over 2000m (11.44pm SA time), the showcase horse race of Illinois and Mike de Kock said: “He has travelled to four continents this year and he is quite amazing. He is relaxed, his coat is good and he hasn’t lost any weight.’’

Archipenko rounded off his preparation with a light canter at the track yesterday and he is in excellent nick. “He doesn’t take his head out of the manger and is actually only maturing now, as he was a late foal.’’

Mike de Kock, who was served with a complimentary fruit basket courtesy of Arlington Park when he arrived at his downtown hotel on Tuesday, said that this was a big event in the Chicago and that the people of the city appeared to be fond of horseracing. “We’re being treated well, as always. The hospitality makes the travelling worthwhile.’’

The trainer said it was an honour to be instituted favourite ahead of a top horse trained by Aidan O’Brien and commented: “Aidan’s Mount Nelson is a top horse in his own right, a Grade 1 winner in Europe. When drawing collateral form between him and Archipenko they appear exactly on a par, so this most definitely won’t be a walk in the park for either of them.”

Aidan O’Brien and Johnny Murtagh are in devastating form. They’ve won 17 Group 1 races this season alone. It’s bound to be an exciting finish as Kevin Shea and Johnny Murtagh also renew the rivalry and sportsmanship they shared in Dubai.”

“Kevin’s been in sparkling form here. He hasn’t been lost for words in this big country and is speaking about his mount to everyone who wants to know,” joked Mike de Kock while munching on Chicago’s traditional chocolate-coated cherries.

As for the American contenders, Mike de Kock expected a good run from the local hero Einstein who, incidentally, was bred by Paulo Caesar (breeder and part-owner of Mike de Kock’s erstwhile UAE Derby winner Lundy’s Liability and well known in South Africa). “We wanted to buy Einstein in South America but never actually got round to it,’’ he said.

The track, he said, was tight with a straight of about 300m. “It’s similar to the Sha-Tin racecourse in Hong Kong, except it goes the other way round. But we have the inside draw and we’re looking forward to the race,’’ concluded De Kock.