Mike de Kock - Racehorse Trainer Extraordinaire
(Photo : Emirates Racing Authority/Mike de Kock Racing)
“…likely to have five or six of the
Durban July final 20”
The TimesThis country has a gift for producing outstanding individuals in many fields - thoroughbred racing included.
The list of homegrown superstars includes Mike de Kock - racehorse trainer extraordinaire, respected wherever hooves thunder.
We know all about De Kock’s feats abroad, burnishing the name of South African thoroughbred racing and breeding wherever he goes. No trainer in the world ranges as fearlessly.
But it’s at home that he’s displaying supremacy at the moment.
At Clairwood last weekend, De Kock saddled the winners of three of the five graded races on the card. He had a fourth trophy denied by a boardroom ruling on in-running interference, and was not far off in the fifth big one.
This tour de force capped a recent golden run, including the Canon Gold Cup the week before - when he sent out Ancestral Fore to overturn decades of precedent and sling dung in the faces of “experts” who said a three-year-old couldn’t prevail in the marathon. Yuck, spit.
Big Mike’s stake earnings for the season are approaching R19-million. That’s R2-million more than the season record - and there are three weeks of the term still to run.
It culminates in the Durban July on July 31, and who would bet against our hero scooping that too. He trains 11 of the 51 horses entered for the race, and is likely to have five or six of the final field of 20 - including favourite Irish Flame.
Mike de Kock grew up in Alberton in the 1970s and ’80s, alongside the old Newmarket racecourse, and fell in love with horses and racing at an early age while gazing over fences at the wondrous beasts as they trained and raced.
By December 1988, De Kock was a full assistant trainer with Ricky Howard-Ginsberg. When his boss died suddenly of a heart attack, the yard’s leading patrons agreed to let the promising youngster take the reins.
The rest is history. After proving to be reasonably good at his job, in 1995 De Kock got a phone call from Bridget Oppenheimer, offering him horses to train. Figuring this was a prank call, he sarcastically brushed off the well-spoken woman and hung up.
An amused Mrs O got her stud man-ager to call the brash southern suburbs boykie. A swift apology to the grand lady of the turf proved to be a launching pad to propel De Kock to the heights of international racing.
For one early Oppenheimer arrival at the De Kock yard was a colt destined to become South Africa’s best racehorse of all time : Horse Chestnut.