Mary Slack
Mary Slack

Mary Slack

(Image : Sporting Post / Mike de Kock Racing)



There were a few spots in racing’s firmament that shone brightly this weekend. One was the excellent competition at Turffontein on Saturday, where Group events kicked off with a David and Goliath cameo in which, of course, David comes out on top. It was the Juvenile Fillies Nursery, in which an unknown Kimberley trainer of an untried horse by an unproven (or supposedly failed) stallion, knocked over the hitherto unbeaten daughter of the sire of the moment, belonging to one of the nation’s most celebrated owners. We’ll post a choice piece on that and the Colts Nursery in tomorrow’s script, but for now we don’t want to detract from what was as good a day as Mike de Kock and Mary Slack have enjoyed at the races in careers which recall some of the sport’s stellar moments.

De Kock saddled no fewer than five Group winners on the day, four of them sporting the Slack’s black silks and cherry cap originally made famous by the diamond magnate, Jim Joel. Looking at the margins of victory, it was as if De Kock had instructed his jockeys to avoid the traffic (and the objection hooter) by staying well clear of the field.

There are emerging parallels between the performances of the Slack string and those of other larger owners, and the dominance abroad of Coolmore over Godolphin, which remind us again of the glorious uncertainty of the turf, and the sheer democracy of it all. Money is undoubtedly a major factor, but the one thing you can’t do without in this game, is the intuition of the great horseman.

For sure you’ll have your “on” days, but in the end, all the money in the world can’t alone guarantee your success. Mary Slack was born into the game, and in De Kock and the other two “wise men”, Jehan Malherbe and the “lion tamer”, Dr John McVeigh, she has surrounded herself with a team to take on the world.

We were in De Kock’s box which gazes out appropriately across the gold mines of early Johanneburg, when the world’s number one trainer turned up once the business was done. I asked him if he’d like a drink, “or is that a silly question?” It was a silly question.

The other bright spot was the level of activity at the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale, where the trade was undoubtedly more bouyant than on the opening Friday. Whether it was the catalogue or the public holiday that influenced outcomes, there was certainly more emotion in the ring from bidders, and while that didn’t necessarily convert itself into bigger statistics, it was a sign that the smaller players were getting in a stab, even if it was at lower levels. Vendors were game in lowering their sights and in the end, given the foreboding with which so many approached the sale, it had to be seen as a satisfactory result.

We’ve been saying it for a while now, but we’ve felt it since the Ready To Run in November and again at our inaugural sale on Summerhill in February, that the worm is definately turning. With stakes increasing in KZN and the prospect of R100,000 maiden prizes next year in that jurisdiction, there’s new hope out there for a steaming up.