Mike de Kock
(John Lewis/Mario Alberto Magallanes Trez)

In celebrating its twenty year association with that country’s Rulers, Summerhill’s preoccupation with the Dubai Racing Carnival is acute, to say the least. While most South African racing fans spend Thursday evenings glued to Channel 232, and no doubt marvel at what our horses are doing out there, Summerhill’s involvement is obviously founded on a number of other premises.

It means so much to us to be represented there, and it’s a permanent aspiration that we should have runners in this desert sheikdom. Better than that, we want to see good runners, and so Mike de Kock’s revelation in his conversation on Friday with Mick Goss, that Imbongi was headed for two major Group races in the next fortnight, was illuminating. Imbongi has had just one run since arriving in Dubai, a block-busting second to multiple Group winner, Hatta Fort, over 1300m, well short of his best.

As a multiple Guineas winner in South Africa, you might be forgiven for thinking that would entail an automatic invitation to Dubai World Cup night, but since the status of these time-revered races has been affected through the tampering of our own Graded Stakes committee, despite two victories over perennial Champion and dual Horse Of The Year, Pocket Power, Imbongi still has to impress others, it seems. Mike de Kock’s reasoning then, is rather than go for a single target in which luck, (or the lack of it,) may play a decisive role, he’s going to ask the horse for two big efforts in a narrow timespan.

Judging by Friday’s article in The Mercury, Mike de Kock was pleased with the performance of Imbongi last week and was hoping he would qualify for the Dubai Duty Free. However, he intimated that his two top horses, Eagle Mountain and Archipenko would also be going for the Duty Free. “Imbongi is a very good horse, make no mistake, but to beat European horses of that class at level weights is not going to be easy”.

We don’t know about his ability to get the 1777 metres of the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (Gr.1), but what we do know is that Imbongi appears to have matured some since the end of last season, and we’re not alone in relishing the thought that at 1600m, he might well be up to competition with the best, including Archipenko and Eagle Mountain. Something to savour for next Thursday.