mike de kock at the summerhill ready to run gallops
Mike de Kock
(Heather Morkel)

Mike de Kock Racing announced today that Mike de Kock will train Russian Sage in the United Arab Emirates next season with the $5-million Dubai Duty Free as his main objective at the Dubai Winter Carnival.

Prior to an unplaced finish last time out in the Grade 1 Durban July, when he set the pace in a field of 20 after breaking from post position 19, the son of leading sire Jallad had 5 wins and 2 seconds in his previous 7 starts this season, numbering Grade 1 wins in the Cape of Good Hope Derby and the Daily News 2000, the latter under new ownership.

Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor International formed a partnership to buy Russian Sage that includes National Horse Racing Authority Chairman Larry Nestadt and Hollywood motion picture producer Gary Barber, said “We discussed the options going forward and decided to patch things up with Mike, because he has always done the best job for us and we want the best for this colt.”

Barry Irwin and Mike de Kock had a blow up the year before last, in which they parted ways, but Russian Sage has served to bring them together again.

“Mike and the colt’s trainer Justin Snaith have a good relationship, so we expect the transition to be a smooth one,” Barry Irwin said. “I know that our team is really excited to be back with Mike and we really look forward to racing this colt not only in Dubai, but internationally as well.

Team Valor tried to buy both Jay Peg and Sun Classique last year and failed in both instances. They went on to Dubai to win the $5 million Sheema Classic and Dubai Duty Free, which served only to further whet our appetite for more international glory.

“We hope that we are giving Mike a tool that he can employ to make an impression in the Duty Free.”

At the 2008 Dubai World Cup, Mike de Kock dominated on World Cup night, winning the Sheema Classic, running 1-2 in the UAE Derby and running second in the World Cup.

Mike de Kock has won two Dubai Duty Free races, one with Ipi Tombe, whom he trained to win the race in the colors of Team Valor in 2003. He might have won the same race a couple of seasons ago with Irridescence, but she impaled herself on the paddock fence and had to be scratched. In her next race, she won the Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong to underline how well meant she had been at Nad al Sheba.

Grade 1 winners trained by Mike de Kock for Team Valor include the aforementioned Irridescence and Ipi Tombe, as well as South African-based Little Miss Magic and Champion juvenile Carnadore.

Mike De Kock, speaking from the UK, said: “Russian Sage is an exciting prospect that will strengthen our already formidable Dubai team for 2009.”

Justin Snaith commented: “We have decided to keep Dancer’s Daughter in South Africa for now so it doesn’t make sense for me to go to Dubai with a single runner, although Russian Sage is a fantasic horse. I have things going the way I want to here in South Africa and can plan a Dubai campaign at a later stage, perhaps when my father returns from his stint in Saudi Arabia.”