herman brown and mike de kockHerman Brown and Mike de Kock
(Summerhill Stud)

The final Nad Al Sheba based Dubai International Racing Carnival kicks off on Thursday boasting the largest international field ever assembled to compete for over US$31million in prize-money.

With an increased number of horses from Japan, France and Saudi Arabia, the return of Australia as well as a strong contingent from South Africa and Great Britain, this year’s Carnival is billed as the best ever and promises to be a fitting farewell to Nad Al Sheba before the much anticipated move to Meydan Racecourse next year.

Having saddled three of the six winners on World Cup night in 2008, as well as runner-up Asiatic Boy in the Dubai World Cup itself, the South African contingent have a tough task to emulate their achievements from last year, but both Mike de Kock and Herman Brown have assembled their strongest teams to date.

With 53 Dubai Carnival winners and 8 Dubai World Cup winners, Mike de Kock, is undoubtedly the most successful trainer to date. He fields about 40 horses based at Nad Al Sheba this season, including last year’s UAE Derby winner Honour Devil and Asiatic Boy (Mike de Kock has won four UAE Derbies), winner of that race in 2007 and Dubai World Cup runner-up last year.

Both could clash in the 2009 Dubai World Cup according to their trainer: “Asiatic Boy did not settle in the UK last year so we brought him back to Dubai early and he is a lot further ahead in his preparation than 12 months ago as a result. He will probably contest the last two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge before the Dubai World Cup,” said Mike de Kock.”

Both Archipenko and Eagle Mountain who, like Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil, carry the familiar yellow silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, were Group 1 winners in Hong Kong last year and will be aiming at the Dubai Duty Free and Dubai Sheema Classic respectively.

Proven Carnival performers like Royal Vintage, Bennie Blue, Engrupido, Drift Ice and Frosty Secret are joined by a plethora of new recruits including South African Champion Sprinter JJ The Jet Plane as well as the talents of Imbongi, Hunting Tower, Rocks Off and Front House. Throw in the likes of Bankable, Stubbs Art, Macarthur and King of Naples from Europe, as well as the usual youngsters from South America, such as Blues And Rock and India Tiberina and it is easy to see why Mike de Kock feels his team is the strongest yet.

The same applies to fellow South African Herman Brown whose 13 Carnival winners to date are undoubtedly highlighted by Jay Peg’s win in last year’s Dubai Duty Free (a race Mike de Kock has won twice).

With stable stalwart Linngari retired, Jay Peg is the obvious star name this year but Herman Brown too has his largest ever team.

Herman Brown explained: “We have more horses this year and hopefully it is our best team ever. That said, the horses have arrived later this time which is not ideal and we may need a week or two to reach our peak. We have left a few here all summer to acclimatise, including Oracle West who has been a great Carnival performer for Mike (de Kock). Narc is another and he ran in the Sprint on World Cup night last year. We have some nice new horses as well with Guineas and Derby winner King’s Gambit perhaps the most interesting from home. Traffic Guard has been here before and did well in Europe, while Mourilyan won two here for John Oxx last season.”

Racecar Rhapsody from America, Lipocco from the UK and Basaltico from Italy are three others given a favourable mention but do not be surprised if further names are added to the Herman Brown stable in the coming weeks with his owners looking to strengthen their hand.

Summerhill Stud wishes both the Mike de Kock and Herman Brown teams great success for the Dubai Racing Carnival with some good old South African “Amandla”.