South African Racehorse Trainer Mike de Kock
South African Racehorse Trainer Mike de Kock

South African Trainer, Mike de Kock

(Photo : John Lewis/DBC)


13 January 2011

The eyes of the racing world were firmly fixed on Meydan Racecourse last night for the highly-anticipated opening meeting of the 2011 Dubai International Racing Carnival. The eight race card, sponsored by Longines, was highlighted by the opening round of the prestigious $US200,000 Al Maktoum Challenge.

The Mike de Kock-trained Our Giant, a talented and versatile gelding formerly based in South Africa, made an impressive seasonal debut on the opening night of the 2011 Racing Carnival.

The seven-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway, who has only raced once since arriving in the UAE in December 2009, finished powerfully to win the $USD 110,000 Conquest Conditions Sprint over 1200m under a typically no-nonsense ride from Christophe Soumillon; his decisive riding tactics supplying the rare kind of thrill that regular race-watchers thrive on.

Our Giant wasn’t rushed along early to match the brisk gallop. He dropped about eight lengths off the pace to race among the backmarkers, where he was kept away from the hustle and bustle of sprint-race traffic. He galloped rhythmically and stayed in touch with the pacemakers going into the gradual turn at the 700m mark, where excitement started to mount and there would forthwith be no show of mercy from any of the contenders or their jockeys.

The difference between top riders and world-class ones is just a question of timing. Soumillon was plotting his finishing run long before this field raced into Action Bend. From his position near the back of the string, he spotted a passage between runners that he believed would lead to the winning post. He wasted no time in heading straight into it; Our Giant’s next gear engaged.

On this balmy desert evening, Irish-born jockey Willie Supple found himself on the back of the seven-year-old mare Alo Pura who, in the next furlong, would be blowing down the Mike de Kock runner’s neck with a strong run of her own.

Alo Pura raced a good length ahead of Our Giant when the said passage made its tempting appearance and Supple saw its potential too. If Alo Pura could race into it first, the contest would be as good as won, because this speedy seven-time winning mare, like Our Giant, was travelling nicely on the bridle.

Soumillon, who must have been educated at an institution where none of the dictionaries contained the word ‘fear’, had already put his head down. He made his calculated move on Our Giant just one little moment faster than Alo Pura. With the taste of victory as definitive on his tongue as a thimble-full of Tullamore Dew, Soumillon barged his way through first.

Not quite the Gap of Dunloe, this was just one horse width away from the running rail and on the immediate inside of the free-running leader Inxile, a six-year-old gelding on which young Michael O’Connell, yet another Irish native, must have thought he was about to clinch his first significant win in Dubai.

The momentum was with Soumillon, who now had Our Giant in full cry. They again reached the desired target a split second before Alo Pura, who wouldn’t give up and gamely thrust herself into Our Giant’s space after a Supple jig. But in the last 75m she simply failed to match strides with Soumillon’s low-flying mount.

Our Giant hit the wire three-quarters clear of Inxile, who, in turn, had just a short-head to spare over the brave mare.

Our Giant is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum in partnership with International Sports Management (ISM) founder Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler and his long-time friend and associate Lee Westwood, who incidentally tops the latest World Golf Rankings ahead of Tiger Woods and will be teeing off in a tournament in Abu Dhabi next week.

Mike de Kock was excited and called Our Giant’s a “special win on a big night for the stable”.

He explained: “I’ve been trying to win a race in Dubai for Chubby and Lee for seven years and we’ve finally cracked it! As luck would have it they are with us here at Meydan tonight which on its own is a lucky feat considering the rigorous travelling schedules of the golf professionals. We are proud to have them as friends and patrons in the yard.”

He said about Our Giant: “He’s a superb horse, he’s much better than he was last year and he’s versatile, not only over various distances but also on turf as well as the All-Weather. One of the best things about the Dubai Carnival is that it gives us several options, especially with a horse like this. We might aim him at a race like the Godolphin Mile but there are other avenues we could go down too.”

Australian import Reem, a daughter of Galileo owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, showed courage in her defeat of Mahbooba in the $US 50,000 UAE 1000 Guineas Trial and Mike said: “We didn’t know much about her and we honestly didn’t expect her to win. Now we no more about her!” Mike added, in the same breath: “Mahbooba put in a tremendous effort, most encouraging going forward into the Carnival.” South African-bred Chocolicious claimed the fourth spot for trainer Herman Brown.

Mike’s concern that 2200m would be a little too far for in-form Wonder Lawn proved to be on the mark. The seven-year-old produced a nice-looking challenge going into the last 400m of the $US 110,000 Evidenza, but became one-paced over the last 100m and took fourth place behind Rock N Roll Ransom.

Imbongi, one of the stable’s best performers at last year’s Carnival, but notably out of sorts in recent weeks, appears to be turning the corner. A cracking second to Mendip in the $US200,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, he confirmed that his improved form in work this week had been reflective of his returning enthusiasm.

Extract from Mike de Kock Racing