mike de kock and gary alexander
mike de kock and gary alexander

Mike de Kock and Gary Alexander - Battle Talk

(Photos : Mike de Kock Racing / JC Photos)



DAVE MOLLETT - It’s the sort of remark one would expect at the weigh-in for a Heavyweight boxing bout.

“Take it from me, we’re not going to make life easy for him.”

In boxing you never know quite what’s going to happen. Only this week, Venezuelan champion, Edwin Valero, murdered his wife and then hanged himself in his jail cell.

The guy who made this statement on Tellytrack was Mike de Kock and he’s hoping his Derby trio can put the favourite on the canvas. The “him” he was referring to was star three year-old, Pierre Jourdan.

Gary Alexander’s talented son of Parade Leader is the name on everyone’s lips as Turffontein puts the finishing touches to one of its biggest days in the course’s history. If Derreck David gets his mount first past the post, the roar will resemble past big race victories by the likes of Elevation and, more recently, Horse Chestnut.

Can Piere Jourdan follow in the footsteps of Triple Crown winner, Horse Chestnut? The answer to that question is yes. Can he be rated on a par? The answer, no, not yet.

It wasn’t a Triple Crown race, but the manner of Horse Chestnut’s eight lengths win - cheered home by both Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer - against his elders in the 1999 J&B Met is forever etched in my memory. Can you name the runner-up? Yes, it was the previous year’s July hero, Classic Flag.

So how is Mike going to make it tough for Pierre Jourdan in the SA Derby. Quite easy. He’s got three runners and he knows the possible chink in the favourite’s armour is the 2450m trip which he’s tackling for the first time.

His ace surely has to be Irish Flame who followed a third in the SA Classic with a sixth behind Regal Ransom (look out for a big run on Saturday) in a 1600m race at Turffontein. The son of Dynasty finished upsides his stablemate, Braggadacio, at level weights so it’s little wonder Betting World have chalked him up second favourite.

But Mike isn’t going to have to take a leaf out of Aidan O’Brien’s book and instruct the rider of either Happy Valley or Ilsanpietro to make the pace if we get a “Cape crawl.”

“If they go fast or slow, Pierre Jourdan has still got to get the trip - there’ll be no plan for mine to burn it up front. But hopefully the race will be run at a decent pace, but if not we wouldn’t be shy to make it.”

“Possibly, Charles’ (Laird) runner, Conquered Dream, could be a threat as he’s got no stamina doubts,” added Mike. Whatever happens in the Derby, he’s expecting a big run from Rudra in the Champions Challenge as the horse has had “a great prep.”

A runner I think can also get in the mix in the Derby is another Mrs O owned horse, Service Ace. I remain convinced we haven’t seen the best of this fellow yet, and he was only a length and a quarter adrift of Irish Flame in the Classic.

Mike doesn’t agree and commented “I know this family - there must be some doubt about him getting the trip.”

Bloodstock SA will be delighted that Mike has remained in town to attend this weekend’s Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales as the stable have Lizard’s Desire and Imbongi batting for them at the big meeting in Hong Kong on Sunday.

Lizard’s Desire unshipped Jeff Lloyd in a work-out on Monday, but both horse and jockey were unscathed. Jeff commented: “We were taking the turn, everything normal, and he suddenly goes the other way - just like that. It’s strange because he has experience of racing right-handed in South Africa long before his trip to Dubai.”

Mike makes a valid point when he says Lizard’s Desire “took his game to another level” on the new tapeta surface in Dubai. Whether he can reproduce that form on grass remains to be seen. My advice for punters on Sunday is simple - lump on Presvis provided Ryan Moore is in the saddle. Check before you place your bet because both he and Lizard’s Desire’s jockey, Christophe Soumillon, might find themselves grounded in Europe.

The possible no show - because of the volcanic ash problem - is currently the biggest worry for new Bloodstock SA marketing manager, Eamonn Cullen, ahead of this weekend’s National Sale.

“Completely unforeseeable - we’re just hoping they resume flights by Thursday or a number of overseas buyers won’t be making the trip,” said Eamonn.

Nevertheless, as Mick Goss noted in his latest Summerhill newsletter, there is “a stable demand for horses domestically” and it could be that the home side saves the day.

Mike commented in a recent Tellytrack interview I conducted that he felt that “it would be harder and harder for the local man with R200,000 to spend to get what he wants.” I asked Mick whether he agreed with this assessment.

His reply: “I’m flattered you should send me Mike’s comment on the sales, and I’m excited that R200,000 might not be enough. He knows what happened in Dubai much better than I do, though I’d be surprised if there was a flood of people from that quarter in the present climate. That said, even a few big hitters can change a market.”

“While I respect Mike’s view, I would think you can still find very good value in South Africa. I don’t expect the market to be up this year, and if you look at recent results, horses bought before Lehmann Brothers, like Pierre Jourdan (R60,000), Smangaliso (R100,000) and Salutation (R50,000) are still there to be had,” added Mick.

The weekend ahead could probably only be topped by being the only male locked in Teazers! But - like the Yearling Sales - that could prove pretty costly as well.