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HARBINGER RETIRED

harbinger
harbinger

Harbinger

(Photo : Racing Diary)

HARBINGER BY DANSILI

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Harbinger (GB) (Dansili - Penang Pearl, by Bering) has been retired, it was announced Monday. Despite successful surgery on his fractured near-fore cannon bone over the weekend, connections of the 11-length King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes Gr1 winner have called time on his career.

In a statement issued on behalf of the Admiral Rous Syndicate, Racing Manager Harry Herbert said, “It is with regret that it has been decided to retire Harbinger from racing. Thanks to the professionalism of the veterinary surgeons Bruce Bladon of O’Gorman Slater and Main, Andrew Bathe of Rossdale and Partners and Antony Clements of Baker and McVeigh, the operation which was undertaken at Rossdales Hospital in Newmarket has been very successful. We are pleased to report that, thankfully, the horse is recovering well. The decision to retire Harbinger is based on the welfare of the horse, which is paramount to all concerned. The owners, for whom this is very sad, are naturally sorry that their great horse has had his racing career cut short. However, Harbinger has given all concerned the ultimate thrill at the very highest level.”

Prior to his emphatic success at Ascot, which places him at the top of the world rankings at present, Harbinger had recorded four wins at group level. They came in the 2009 Gordon Stakes Gr3 at Goodwood and this term’s John Porter Stakes Gr3, Ormonde Stakes Gr3 and Hardwicke Stkes Gr2. The latter performance, which signaled the four-year-old’s arrival in the major league, set him up for a tilt at the King George, and Herbert singled the latter two runs out yesterday.

“The highest-rated horse in the world, Harbinger won six of his nine starts and is undefeated this year,” Herbert added. “In winning the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot so impressively and then producing one of the greatest performances of all time to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes by 11 lengths in record time, Harbinger has confirmed himself as one of the all time greats.”

In total, Harbinger was the winner of six of his nine starts and over GBP770,000 in prize money.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

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ST NICHOLAS ABBEY ON CLASSICS ROAD

st nicholas abbey racing post trophy 2009 video
st nicholas abbey racing post trophy 2009 video

Click above to watch St Nicholas Abbey in the G1 Racing Post Trophy

(Please excuse the commentary…)

(Footage : At The Races)

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY

G1 RACING POST TROPHY 2009

Backing up a first pattern score in last month’s G2 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes at The Curragh, St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) (Montjeu) laid down a spectacular marker for next season’s Classics with a hugely impressive triumph in Saturday’s G1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

Ridden with patience from the outset, the 13-8 favorite settled Britain’s final Group 1 contest of the year in an instant. He quickened to the front approaching the final furlong and burst clear thereafter to easily defeat Elusive Pimpernel (Elusive Quality) by 3 3/4 lengths.

“I was concerned about the ground because he’s a very light moving horse,” admitted trainer Aidan O’Brien, who claimed his fifth renewal with the win. “When you see a horse that can relax, travel and quicken the way he does, it’s very exciting. He’s a natural, and all we have to do is mind him. He has that real speed a miler needs to have.”

Aidan O’Brien had trained four previous winners of this end-of-season championship, but bridged a seven year gap since the 2002 success of Brian Boru (GB) (Sadler’s Wells) with the scintillating performance of St Nicholas Abbey.

Stepping out with a four-length debut success going a mile at The Curragh August 16, St Nicholas Abbey confirmed initial promise with a cozy win in the G2 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes back over that course and distance in his only other go September 27.

Jockey Johnny Murtagh employed patience from flag-fall in this sterner test, and positioned his mount behind all 10 rivals. Cruising into contention passing the two pole, St Nicholas Abbey put the race to bed in one fell swoop, and left his rivals for dust thereafter to earn quotes as low as 5-2 for next term’s G1 2000 Guineas and G1 Investec Derby.

“He’s an exciting horse with great speed,” said Johnny Murtagh. “He has a great cruising gear and a great turn of foot. When I got him out running to the furlong pole, I asked him to quicken and it was all over.”

RECENT WINNERS OF THE G1 RACING POST TROPHY

YEAR

WINNER

SIRE

TRAINER

2008

Crowded House

Rainbow Quest

Meehan

2007

Ibn Khaldun

Dubai Destination

bin Suroor

2006

Authorized

Montjeu

Chapple-Hyam

2005

Palace Episode

Machiavellian

Ryan

2004

Motivator

Montjeu

Bell

2003

American Post

Bering

Head-Maarek

2002

Brian Boru

Sadler’s Wells

O’Brien

2001

High Chaparral

Sadler’s Wells

O’Brien

2000

Dilshaan

Darshaan

Stoute

1999

Aristotle

Sadler’s Wells

O’Brien

1998

Commander Collins

Sadler’s Wells

Chapple-Hyam

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

Timeform ranks SEA THE STARS as ‘All Time Great’

sea the stars and mick kinane
sea the stars and mick kinane

Sea The Stars and Mick Kinane

(Photo : News Of The World)

Scarcely had the ink dried on our piece on SEA THE STARS and RACHEL ALEXANDRA, than Sea The Stars’ merit rating was published.

Sea The Stars has joined the list of all-time greats after his stunning Irish Champion Stakes win at Leopardstown, according to Timeform – and there is the mouth-watering prospect of better to come.

Australian and New Zealand Bloodstock News reports that Timeform have provisionally given John Oxx’s colt a huge rating of 140, which puts him alongside Shergar, Dancing Brave and Dubai Millennium as the third best horse since 1970.

Only Brigadier Gerard(144) and Mill Reef (141) have been allotted bigger ratings by Timeform since 1970. Timeform’s Flat Editor Jamie Lynch commented: “Mastercraftsman (130) appears to have run his race in third, and there is also good reason for believing that Fame And Glory deserves a rating of 135, and to be bracketed in the same league as Sinndar(134),Galileo(134) and St Jovite(135).

“Therefore the form of the race looks solid, and we have given Sea The Stars a provisional rating of 140.

“Furthermore, Sea The Stars again didn’t look all out, leaving the impression there could be an even better performance in him if ever comes up against something able to test him fully. “He should now be classed as one of the all-time greats.”

TIMEFORM RATINGS SINCE 1970

HORSE RATING

Brigadier Gerard

144

Mill Reef

141

Sea The Stars

140

Dubai Millennium

140

Dancing Brave

140

Shergar

140

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Summer Mile Stakes - Race Commentary

summerhill radio
summerhill radio

Totesport.com Summer Mile Stakes G2

Ascot, UK

11 July 2009

GBP 100,000

1st Aqlaam

2nd Confront

3rd Imbongi (Russian Revival x Garden Verse)

Jockey : Kevin Shea

Trainer : Mike de Kock

Breeder : Summerhill Stud

Owners : Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

Michael Fleischer

Summerhill Syndicate

Owen Liebrandt

Barry Clements

Ronnie Napier

aqlaam confront imbongi
aqlaam confront imbongi

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THE SUMMER MILE STAKES AT ASCOT

imbongi summer mile challenger
imbongi summer mile challenger

Imbongi

(Photo : Summerhill/HKJC)

IMBONGI’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE

The Summer Mile Stakes has always been a good race, as it provides an opportunity for the best milers in Europe to maintain their sharpness while they’re waiting for the next big Group One challenge later in the season. We doubt though, that the race has ever attracted the quality of contenders that line-up on Saturday at 2:50 pm (that’s English time, of course, which means 3:50pm here).

The first three past the post in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes (Gr.1), Paco Boy, Cesare and Aqlaam, line up again here, and so Imbongi will really have his work cut out if he’s to feature in the money. According to Racing Post, he’s in with something of a squeak, as the fourth highest rated horse in the field. Paco Boy and Cesare each have a Racing Post rating of 135, Aqlaam 134, and Imbongi 133, which means there’s not much in it, if ratings matter. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t others in the field, but it certainly seems, on current form, these are the chief protagonists.

What the race will certainly do, is tell us where Imbongi sits in the pantheon of the worlds best milers, because this just about represents the best form in the world this year. From all accounts, he’s well and ready to run, so for South Africa’s sake, let’s keep everything crossed.

IMBONGI : THE WARRIOR'S RETURN

imbongi-john-bovington-(daily-mail).jpg

Imbongi

John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes Gr3

(Photo : Daily Mail)

“IMBONGI takes England’s biggest race of the weekend”

All week, Mike de Kock has been tipping Imbongi as the horse who thrived most since his string arrived in the UK. When Imbongi had done and dusted the Criterion Stakes (Gr.3) in facile fashion his pilot, Kevin Shea dismounted with the announcement that this was just the beginning. He felt the horse could step up from here, and while he was non-committal about where he would go in the next month or so, knowing Mike de Kock, he’s likely to make the progression to Group 2 level, and then cast his eyes towards something like the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr.1) at Ascot in September.

Like so many others in Mike de Kock’s yard, Imbongi really battled in Dubai, and was nowhere near his best, but Saturday he put all the ghosts away, and his form at last, approached the spectacles South African racegoers became accustomed to in his dual Guineas sagas and his demolition of four Grade One winners, including Horse of The Year, Pocket Power, in last year’s Drill Hall Stakes (Gr.2).

Don’t forget though, this was a horse that was turned out of the ring unsold at the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, and it took a man of Ronnie Napier’s decades in racing to recognise his potential on a frosty Saturday morning at the Summerhill gallops. So much for the unwanted child!

P.S. There was a double celebration in this one. Imbongi’s was the first winner from Sheikh Mohammed’s newly acquired Abingden Place yard, Mike’s English headquarters. If it weren’t for the Sheikh’s enterprise and his love of the game, we’d not’ve been in England.

john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link
john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link

Watch the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3)

Imbongi to make European debut

IMBONGI
“traditional poet of the Zulu or Xhosa people who composes poetry
in praise of a leader”
(Photo : HKJC/inkokhelo/Nicholas Goss/AfricanSkies)

News filtering in from the UK is that Imbongi is set to make his European debut at Newmarket’s July Course this Saturday afternoon, June 27. (16h25 our time on DSTV Channel232)

Following a string of fine efforts in Hong Kong and Dubai earlier in the year, Mike de Kock’s charge is one of 18 challengers entered for the £65,000 Group Three John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes to be run over seven-furlongs.

The South African fighter finished a staying-on sixth last time out in the Group One Champions Mile at Sha Tin on April 26. Imbongi had previously been fourth in two Group Two races at Nad Al Sheba and was narrowly denied on his seasonal debut at the same course in a valuable seven-furlong handicap, when he just failed to collar Hatta Fort.

In South Africa last year, the Summerhill-bred Imbongi proved himself to be one of the leading milers of his generation, starting with electrifying victories in the Grade Two Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein in March and the Grade Two KZN Guineas at Greyville in April before returning to Greyville in May to destroy five previous Grade One winners in the Grade Two Drill Hall Stakes, including South African “Horse of the Year, Pocket Power.

Mike de Kock revealed to Newmarket Racecourse correspondents : “Imbongi is an intended runner in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes as things stand. He worked on the Rowley Mile with Diana’s Choice two weeks ago and he took it well. I think that seven furlongs to a mile is his best trip and the forecast ground should be an advantage for him.”

“We had some poor ventilation in Dubai and some of the horses bled out there but he still showed a decent level of form, including when he finished in front of Vodka in a Group Two in March.”

“It wasn’t a bad performance in Hong Kong either, when he ran from quite far back. Alexandros was a neck behind him on that occasion and he went on to be second in the Lockinge Stakes, so we have some collateral form to work with.”

“Some of the top milers around ran in that race and he was too far out of his ground, but he still ran on well in the closing stages. We will hopefully start him off at Newmarket and then take his season from there.”

Imbongi looks set to face some tough opposition including Racer Forever, who got the better of King Of Dixie in a thrilling finish to last year’s race. Subsequent Group One winner Court Masterpiece was also narrowly denied in 2005 and the nine-year-old, now in the care of John Quinn after a spell at stud, could return to Newmarket following a fine third in a York conditions race on his first start for more than two years.

Ancien Regime may make his Godolphin debut following a progressive three-year-old campaign for Michael Jarvis that included victory in the Coral.co.uk Sprint on the Rowley Mile and a close sixth in the Group One Sprint Cup at Doncaster in September, while Huntdown, third in last year’s Group One Shadwell Middle Park Stakes, could also make his first appearance for Saeed bin Suroor, having previously been trained by John Gosden.

Other notable entries include Winker Watson, who enjoyed Group Two success on the July Course in the TNT July Stakes in 2007, last season’s Group One Stan James sponsored 1000 Guineas fifth Dream Eater, as well as Laa Rayb and Balthazaar’s Gift, who were third and fourth respectively in the Group Two Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October.

YEATS : The Ultimate Heavyweight Champ

yeats

 Yeats
Ascot Gold Cup 2006 - 2009
(Photo : Horsephoto/Press Association/Sporting Life)

 “YEATS THE IMMORTAL”

 That was Friday’s headline in the American Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN), following YEATS historic fourth victory in the world’s greatest staying race. We suspect the authors have been reading our “propaganda” on his slightly older brother, resident Summerhill stallion SOLSKJAER, who was named for immortality in honour of the world’s best footballer of his time.

The publishers of both the TDN and the Thoroughbred Times obviously know where SOLSKJAER resides, as they were very quick to send their congratulations, as though we might have been an active party in this remarkable dream.

Amazingly, we have discovered in the course of the weekend that YEATS fourth consecutive victory was the first in the 202 year history of the Gold Cup (Gr 1), and that he was the first horse in more than a hundred years to win the race as an eight-year-old. The question now is, do the Coolmore team have a crack at a fifth consecutive victory? No doubt knowing the principals, they’ll be dying to have a go, but already jockey Johnny Murtagh is hedging his bets: “He can’t go on for ever, and I don’t want to be the one on top when he loses; he’s the ultimate heavyweight champ and it’s the greatest day in my riding career”.

A final word from trainer Aidan O’Brien:

“Horses like Yeats don’t come along more than once in a lifetime and I’ve never seen scenes like it before – all the cheering and those posters and flags for him – that’s what it’s all about. It’s more than money and value with him, it’s something really special. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don’t come true, even though you dream and dream”.

solskjaer stallion

 

BIG DAY FOR ASCOT : BIG DAY FOR SUMMERHILL

Solskjaer

Solskjaer
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

Two things happened yesterday. The first was the draw for the R3.5 million Vodacom Durban July, “Africa’s Biggest Horse Race”, and the second yesterday afternoon, was the jewel in the crown of Royal Ascot, The Gold Cup.

We’ll start with the latter, as it constituted a new record. The imperious Yeats cantered away to his 4th consecutive victory in one of the world’s most famous horseraces. We know of no archy event on any calendar anywhere in which one horse has been so utterly dominant, and the fact that Royal Ascot witnessed it’s biggest crowd ever, is testimony to the belief that they came to worship him.

Of course, from a Summerhill perspective, the noteworthy feature of Yeat’s victory is that he is a 3/4 brother to our resident stallion, Solskjaer, who might even have been more talented were it not for the cruelty of injury. This is not a time though for comparisons as any 4 time winner of a race of this stature deserves his time in the sun, perhaps forever. As television’s John McCririck ventures, no other horse will ever do it again.

The finest compliment Solskjaer could pay to his younger brother, was in posting the highest average at the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales in April, where he not only secured the top Filly of the Sale, but out-pointed the Champion Sires Jet Master, Western Winter and Fort Wood, with his first crop.

And now for the July. The draw for any big race is a critical issue and so yesterday was a critical day for local owners, trainers and jockeys connected with the Vodacom July. For the past 3 years, Summerhill has had as many as 25% of the runners engaged, and while we’re not quite there this year, we will still have 3 in the Post Parade for the big one. Amazingly they drew 7, 8 and 9 - Thandolwami, Catmandu and Outcome), and while they’re not dominating the betting by any stretch, any one of these horses is capable of an upset on his or her day.

More on the July in the next few weeks.

vodacom durban july field linkClick above to view the
final field and draw for the 2009 Vodacom Durban July

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YEATS THE IMMORTAL

yeats johnny murtagh gold cup
yeats johnny murtagh gold cup

Yeats and Johnny Murtagh

Gold Cup 2009

(Photo : Press Association)

Royal Ascot yesterday witnessed the carving of history as Yeats (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) put his name on the roll of honor for the Gr1 Gold Cup for an unprecedented fourth time.

The Thoroughbred Daily News writes that banishing the memory of a rare below-par effort on his return in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan April 26, Susan Magnier and Diane Nagle’s modern great justified all of the confidence that saw him hammered into 6-4 when powering to a 3 1/2-length defeat of Patkai (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}). There was a further 15 lengths back to the second favorite Geordieland (Fr) (Johann Quatz {Fr}), reinforcing the visual impression of the performance.

‘It’s unbelievable - I was so sick all morning, because I really believed this couldn’t happen and history is very hard to change’ an emotional Aidan O’Brien said.

Horses like Yeats don’t come along more than once in a lifetime and I’ve never seen scenes like it before - all the cheering and those posters and flags for him - that’s what it’s all about. It’s more than money and value with him, it’s something really special. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don’t come true, even though you dream and dream.

Yeats might not have traveled down this route had he not been injured before the Epsom Derby five years ago, but the rest is certainly history. Apart from his list of Gold Cup triumphs under three different jockeys, the stalwart of Ballydoyle had also garnered top-level successes in Epsom’s Gr1 Coronation Cup in 2005, the Curragh’s Gr1 Irish St Leger two years ago and last year’s renewal of the Gr1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp. That performance demonstrated that he was still at a peak despite his age, but while only eight months had passed to now, the evidence at Navan on his only subsequent start raised inevitable doubts.

As soon as this landmark event was underway, it was clear that the real Yeats was back on the scene and Johnny Murtagh played it cool early as his mount raced hard on the bridle close to the pace. Leaving the attack until coming out of Swinley Bottom, his rider built the customary irresistible momentum that saw the dark bay open up daylight in early stretch.

By the time Ryan Moore emerged with a flourish on the four-years younger Patkai, age was no longer an issue and the name of Yeats was stenciled onto the winner’s board once again.

Johnny Murtagh likened Yeats to Muhammad Ali beforehand and reiterated that sentiment afterwards. ‘He is the greatest - the ultimate heavyweight champ,’ Murtagh commented. ‘He loves fast ground, he loves Royal Ascot and comes alive here. It was truly one of the greatest days in my riding career. The crowd have come out in force to see him today and he’s everything that’s positive about racing.’ Aidan O’Brien added. ‘He’s very clever and has gone wise, but the boss pointed out the other morning that, in his last work, he put in four 11 1/2-second furlongs one after another.’

“When a stayer can do those times, all the class has to be there.”

Comment

Royal Ascot history for TIGER RIDGE and TRIPPI

royal ascotRoyal Ascot
(Photos : Getty/AP Photo/F1)

“RED LETTER DAY FOR SOUTH AFRICAN STALLIONS
AT THE WORLD’S BIGGEST MEETING”

The purchase for stud duty in South Africa of A.P. Indy’s Storm Cat half brother, TIGER RIDGE, and Florida’s number one stallion, TRIPPI, both set new records in terms of the cost of sire-power for this country. Many a pundit was left gob-smacked at the outlay, but the protagonists behind their acquisition were of the faith that if we want this country to go to the next level as a nursery for world class horses, we have to do what it takes.

It’s times like the ones we live in though, that make us question our judgement, that tell us to reinvest our beliefs, Doubt becomes the refuge of the pessimist. Yet it’s times like this that can set us apart, and determine our futures.

Mary Slack and Gaynor Rupert, the principals behind these horses, could hardly have chosen a better place to vindicate their views than the number one race meeting in the world. Royal Ascot is not only populated by the people that matter in racing, but the message goes out to tens of millions on television. On the opening day, TIGER RIDGE displayed his wares with the impressive victory of his American-trained son STRIKE THE TIGER, in the Windsor Castle Stakes (L).

Yesterday, TRIPPI’s daughter, JEALOUS AGAIN, demolished a field of England’s best two-year-olds in the Queen Mary Stakes (Gr2), providing her adventurous American trainer, Wesley Ward, with his second Royal Ascot winner from three starters. No doubt the enterprise of this man will ensure this is by no means the last sortie among US trainers to this great showpiece.

Talking of enterprise, our top hats off to Wilgerbosdrift Stud (TIGER RIDGE) and Drakenstein Stud (TRIPPI). The entire team at Summerhill is here, saluting.

YEATS BIDDING FOR IMMORTALITY

yeats and kieren fallonYeats
(Photo : Horsephoto)

Twelve months ago, Yeats (Ire) (half brother to Summerhill’s promising young sire, Solskjaer) stepped into history, equaling the feat of Sagaro (GB) by winning three renewals of the Gr1 Gold Cup. This time, Susan Magnier and Diane Nagle’s goliath is bidding to create his own legacy, and nearly all of Ascot will be holding its breath as he swings off that final turn once again.

Having made this arena his own since stepping out under Kieren Fallon for the first of those triumphs in 2006, the pride of Ballydoyle has to defy advancing years after he dropped tamely away to a distant sixth in his traditional prep, the April 26 Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.

Like all Yeats’ fans, Aidan O’Brien is just hoping the magic resurfaces. “He’s a year older and wiser than last year, so he minds himself and is clever,” said Aidan O’Brien. “He’s a marvelous horse and one of those unique horses you just sit back and look at each morning. His first run was disappointing, but that was a steadily run race in bad ground and he was still very relaxed in himself. To have him in top gear at that time of the year, it would be very hard to get him to peak again after, so I wouldn’t read that much into it. We think he’s come forward again since then and hopefully, he’ll leave that behind.”

solskjaer stallion

Mike de Kock armed for Golden Jubilee Dogfight

j j the jet plane ascotJ J The Jet Plane, Ascot
(Photo : Daily Mail)

Mike de Kock and J J The Jet Plane have captivated the interest of the UK racing media in the buildup to Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes where they will challenge for South African glory in the final Group 1 trophy of Royal Ascot 2009.

Following is an extract from yesterday’s edition of the UK’s Mirror, written by David Yates :

Royal Ascot
Saturday 20 June 2009, Race 3
The Golden Jubilee Stakes

“I feel the need… the need for speed…”

Australia plundered Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2003 with King’s Stand Stakes hero Choisir.

Two years later, the six furlong sprint - run at York while Ascot was being rebuilt - went to Hong Kong raider Cape Of Good Hope.

Now J J The Jet Plane is the bookies’ favourite to make racing history by taking the prize to South Africa.

But victory for the five-year-old would mark just the latest overseas plunder for Mike De Kock, the trainer who has made his name dispatching runners from his Johannesburg base to capture some of the biggest races on the planet.

A decade ago Mike de Kock came to Ascot with a view to sending his stable star Horse Chestnut for a clash with Europe’s top middle-distance cream in the King George.

The plan to run didn’t come off, but a sortie to America saw Horse Chestnut demolish his rivals in Gulfstream Park’s prestigious Broward Handicap - and Mike de Kock was bitten by the travel bug.

“In any sport, you want to pitch yourself against your peers abroad,” explains the 45 year-old Mike de Kock, who as a boy became fascinated by the goings-on at Johannesburg’s Newmarket racecourse, a couple of furlongs from his family home.

After a couple of years in the Equestrian Unit of the SA Defence Force, Mike de Kock learned his trade in the training ranks of his native city before taking out a licence in his own name in 1989.

“The ambition to run Horse Chestnut in the King George didn’t take place, but it was his win in America that whet my appetite for international competition.

“I came across to Ascot and I thought, ‘This is what I want.’ But you’ve got to have the horses to be competitive.

“Sitting in South Africa, you’re looking abroad and everything in America and England looks so big, and you’re almost nervous to have a crack at it.” The exploits of the ex-Zimbabwean mare Ipi Tombe, which included a track-record win in Dubai’s Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night in 2003, established Mike de Kock as a force on the international scene.

“I felt Ipi Tombe was good enough to race abroad,” he recalls. “I felt, ‘If there’s a better horse, then I want to see it.” “We didn’t really know how competitive we would be until we took our horses abroad.”

“We thought she would be competitive, but I didn’t imagine she would win in Dubai like she did.”

Ipi Tombe was crowned Dubai Horse of the Year for 2003, while Mike de Kock topped the trainers’ list at its spring meeting five years running from 2004.

Last year he even improved Aidan O’Brien cast-offs Archipenko and Eagle Mountain to score at the highest level in Hong Kong last year.

But success at Royal Ascot represents uncharted territory for Mike de Kock, who recruited dual Group 1 winner J J The Jet Plane to race at the Dubai Carnival this spring.

A Group 3 winner at Nad Al Sheba in February, the gelded son of champion South African speedster Jet Master arrived at his summer base in Newmarket last month, before warming up for Ascot in a Listed sprint at Windsor.

J J The Jet Plane lived up to his odds of 4-7 by four lengths from Intrepid Jack, and Mike de Kock admits: “I would have been very disappointed if he’d got beat or struggled to win.”

“People have said it wasn’t a very accomplished field, but I’ve gone back on the form and the other horses have some pretty good form.”

“The second is rated 107 and we’ve given him 7lbs and a four-length beating, so J J’s got to be running very close to his mark and I thought it was a good win.”

“He’s a very straightforward horse. He’s got exceptional speed and he’s also got that kick, that stamina with his speed, that I think makes him a horse that is going to be competitive on the world stage.”

The nomadic life travelling from one major racing carnival to another suits Mike de Kock, who has no plans for permanent settlement in Britain, adding: “I’m very happy to follow the sun - it would be difficult for me to make a base because in the winter I don’t want to be here!” Weather-wise a British summer comes with no guarantees, but Mike de Kock is already an enthusiastic convert to the domestic racing programme.

“You get some unbelievable meetings here and some of the best horses in the world to race.”

The Derby is followed by Royal Ascot, which gets followed up by the July meetings, which gets followed up by York - Jesus, it doesn’t stop!”

“If I’ve got a top horse then I don’t believe there’s a place in the world that gives you the same value as England does - as a stallion or broodmare prospect.”

“You really, really are spoilt for really good racing at the top end.”

ROYAL ASCOT

Royal Ascot must surely be one of the most well-known racing events on the international calendar. The Melbourne Cup may stop a nation for a day, but this Royal meeting stops the world for a week.

It was Queen Anne who transformed the naked heathland at Windsor Castle into the arena for England’s most famous sporting tradition in 1711. Since then more money, more pride, more pedigree and more champagne has been splurged on the outcome of the events of these four days than on any other sporting action anywhere.

To line up at Ascot takes more than a measure of talent, and earning a cheque is a serious achievement. Those that lay claim to Group One success are the elite of the breed. Summerhill stallion MALHUB (Kingmambo/Arjuzah) is one such horse; he overcame major adversity, took on the best, and beat the best sprinters in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Gr1), including World Champion Juvenile, JOHANNESBURG.

This year, South African-bred J J THE JET PLANE carries the flag for South Africa in Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1), while MYTHICAL FLIGHT takes up the challenge in today’s Kings Stand Stakes (Gr1).

THE INVESTEC ENGLISH DERBY (GR.1)

Saturday’s smashing victory in the greatest Derby of them all, the one at Epsom Downs in England, by Sea The Stars was a moment to remember.

INVESTEC DERBY : Do you want your own Cape Cross?

sea the stars (pa)Sea The Stars (Cape Cross)
2009 Investec Derby (Gr1)
(Photo : Press Association)

Sea The Stars (Cape Cross) comfortably landed the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, the first horse to complete the 2000 Guineas / English Derby double since Nashwan in 1989. The Cape Cross half-brother to Galileo travelled smoothly all the way, quickening clear with a furlong to go, to easily claim his second Classic in as many runs. Aidan O’Brien saddled the next four home.

Click here to visit Summerhill’s “Horses In Training Page”  to view our offering of horses in training, including an exceptionally well bred son of Cape Cross.

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BIG ACCOLADE FOR STRONGHOLD

Stronghold
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

 “BIG ACCOLADE FROM BIG NEWSPAPER FOR A BIG HORSE”

Thursday’s issue of England’s Racing Post, the foremost daily newspaper on racing, carried a story on the significance of times down Ascot’s straight course. Of significance to Summerhill and Stronghold, the horse we proclaimed one of the best to enter our stallion ranks, is the fact he posted the best time performance in the history of Ascot’s course in his big effort in the 2006 renewal of the Royal Hunt Cup.

Stronghold’s effort should be seen in the context that the same course is the venue for the running of one of the world’s most celebrated Group One miles, the Queen Anne Stakes, which takes place during Royal Ascot week, coming up in a fortnight’s time.

His trainer, John Gosden, always believed Stronghold had a Group One race in him, and it was for that reason that he did not get to his second career at Summerhill until 2008.

Following his big run at Ascot in 2006, Stronghold was injured as the starting favourite for the season end Challenge (Gr.2) at Newmarket, and then suffered a career-crippling injury in recovery after keyhole surgery on his knee in the off-season. As a result, he only saw the racecourse once thereafter, and that was in the Hungerford Stakes (Gr.2) where, after a twelve month layoff, he snatched the lead with a furlong to go, only to go down to a flying Red Evi (triple Group One heroine) in the dying strides, when both his condition and his soundness finally yielded to the demands of a spectacular finish.

Either way, this survey in the Racing Post reminds us how fortunate we are to have a horse of Stronghold’s credentials on the roster. No wonder the man who bred Danehill and the best Danehills since, Prince Khalid Abdullah, retained a rare breeding interest in this fellow, just as he did with Danehill.

Racing Post Thursday 4 June 2009

“Since Ascot re-laid the straight course in 2005, it is fair to say that there have been some unusual results at the track which have left students of the form book scratching their heads.

For starters, you can never be confident about where the fastest ground is, although you only have to look at the stalls numbers of the horses who dominated last season’s Golden Jubilee – the first five home were drawn in the five lowest-numbered stalls – to see that track biases can have a massive impact on the outcome of these races on the straight course.

Then there’s the track’s slick drainage, which means that it nearly always rides fast - just look at the GoingStick readings, which often imply it is riding much quicker than the official going description – with the possible exception being those races staged in the immediate aftermath of a heavy downpour.

There is also the track’s crossover with the all-weather, as we’ve seen many horses whose form has suggested they’re much better on artificial surfaces, particularly Polytrack, run well on the turf at Ascot.

This could be down to the fact that some horses really let themselves down on the unique racing surface and it places an emphasis on speed by rewarding horses who travel well in their races.

Nearly all of all-weather racing is staged on oval circuits, but I suspect that if we had all-weather racing on straight courses, the style of racing would be similar to what we’ve been seeing at Ascot.

In short, it’s a track for specialists, and as many of the races at Royal Ascot are staged on the straight course I thought it would be interesting to bring attention to some of the horses, many of whom are heading to Royal Ascot, that have been able to post significant performances on the clock on the straight course.

Races over 7f and 1m

The big handicap over 7f at Royal Ascot is the Buckingham Palace Stakes, but the entries for that race are yet to be published, and hopefully Clive Brittain’s Al Muheer will be handed an entry.

As a three-year-old last August he recorded an adjusted time of 74.64 over 6f, the sixth best time for that distance by a three-year-old and the best by a three-year-old in a handicap, while he also recorded a good time over a straight mile in July. He is on an attractive mark of 96 and 7f should be perfect for him.

But the big ante-post handicap over the straight mile is the Royal Hunt Cup. It’s routinely run at a strong pace and the top three adjusted times were all posted n the race.

Stronghold, who finished second off 9st 8lb in 2006, leads the way on 99.90 seconds, while last year’s second Docofthebay and winner Mr. Aviator fill second and third spots.

Docofthebay carried 9st 6lb when recording that time, but has slipped down the handicap, so will shoulder just 8st 11lb this season. If he can recapture his peak form, he looks extremely well handicapped.”

ASCOT BEST TIME PERFORMERS
(Straight course since 2006)

HORSE AGE ADJUSTED
TIME (sec)
5f    
Miss Andretti June 07 6 60.20
Dandy Man June 07 4 60.34
Magnus June 07 5 60.40
Takeover Target June 07 8 60.50
Takeover Target June 06 7 60.83
     
6f    
Soldier’s Tale June 07 6 73.53
Takeover Target June 07 8 73.57
Asset June 07 4 73.67
War Artist 5 73.68
Red Clubs June 07 4 73.77
     
7f    
Jeremy June 06 3 87.40
Red Clubs 3 87.75
Laa Rayb 4 87.79
Nans Joy Aug 08 4 87.79
Asset June 06 3 87.80
     
1m    
Stronghold June 06 4 99.50
Docofthebay Aug 08 4 100.49
Mr.Aviator Aug 08 4 100.50
Soviet Song June 06 6 100.59
Cesare June 06 5 100.82

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