imbongi and kevin sheaImbongi

Last night brought down the curtain on the last of the big trials for racing’s richest meeting, the Dubai World Cup. There were many South African-connected steeds on display, and Mike de Kock will count it as a good day at the office.

From a Summerhill perspective, we had to be happy with the proceedings, though Imbongi must’ve been among the unlucky ones on the night. In what looked to be the “deep end” for Art Of War, in a race in which the famous likes of Dubai Millennium, Street Cry, and Electrocutionist have honed their claws for the big day, this little chap was asked to do it the hard way, out in front, while his illustrious stable companion, Asiatic Boy, bided his time three wide, out of the kick-back. Let’s not forget, Asiatic Boy was second in the World Cup itself a year ago to no less a horse than the world champion, Curlin, so having your name mentioned on the same card was something in itself of an honour for this unusually small son of Kahal. Yet he gutsed it out from the start, led through the bend, and kicked on courageously in the strait, hanging on grimly for third in the dying stages, while Asiatic Boy will be spot on for another crack at $6 million loot at the end of March.

Imbongi was in a tough one here, including grand Japanese filly, Vodka, who’s just been voted Horse Of The Year in her homeland. Also in the field were last year’s Duty Free hero, Jay Peg, (subsequent winner of the Singapore Airlines Cup Gr.1 as well); the Cape Derby and Daily News 2000 ace, Russian Sage, Summer Cup winner, Strategic News, and any number of international Group One and Two competitors.

The big worry for those of us who know Imbongi, was whether or not he would see out the 1770 m of the race, as this was relatively new territory for him, so it was to his great credit that in the last 150 metres of the race, there was nothing travelling better than he was. Pocketed in (like Vodka was), Imbongi saw daylight for the first time when the race was all but over, but once Kevin Shea had extracted him, he flew to get up for the minor money, while another stride or two might’ve put him in second.

Mike de Kock was more than frustrated after the event, proclaiming to Mick Goss that he thought the horse should’ve won with something to spare, if he’d got a run. It’s all the better news that he came out of the race well, and according to Mike, he’s hopeful he’ll qualify for a crack at the $5 million Dubai Duty Free over the course and distance, on the big night.