Meydan, 1 March 2014

Christophe Soumillon was seen at his awesome best at Meydan in Dubai on Saturday evening, booting home two winners for Mike de Kock at the meeting sponsored by District One and Meydan Sobha.

There is a school of thought in racing for the notion that thoroughbreds respond equally well to soft, hands-and-heels rides and vigorous driving with use of the whip. Arguably, however, both Kavanagh (Sprint Handicap, 1200m) and Sanshaawes (Handicap, 2000m) would have been in some trouble if the five-times French Champion Jockey had opted to mollycoddle his mounts when the battle lines were drawn in their respective contests.

When pressed for wholehearted efforts at the action stage, Kavanagh and Sanshaawes both momentarily appeared to shirk the issue, but Soumillon took full charge with the kind of forceful jockeyship that’s brought him Gr1 winners in no less than 10 countries spread over three continents.

Kavanagh got to his top speed just in time me to run down Dux Scholar by a neck in the USD175,000 District One Sprint, which was titled the Energia Elegante Sprint when Mary Slack’s South African-bred took the laurels on the first Saturday of March almost exactly a year ago to the day.

Soumillon, who turns 33 in June, said: “Kavanagh really travelled strongly to carry me into the race but the runner-up really battled hard and made it very tough. I thought we had just made it as my horse had his head down on the line. We thought a lot of him at the start of the season but were a little disappointed with him. I had to be quite strong on him at the end and it’s good to get a win with him. It is nice to see him back to form and he clearly likes this straight track.”

Kavanagh didn’t make the made the frame in eight starts at various venues in the UK and Singapore in the last twelve months and his return to form gave credence to the more consistently confirmed theories, ‘horses for courses’ and ‘horses perform in recognizable cycles’.

In his website preview, Mike hinted that Kavanagh was bound to return to winning ways back on turf over six furlongs at Meydan. The six-year-old by the recently deceased stallion Tiger Ridge has now chalked up eight wins from 33 starts for Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud.

Mike told in a recent interview that four-year-old Sanshaawes had been battling with niggling injuries ever since he was acquired for Sheik Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum (the son of the stable’s long-time UAE patron) in April 2013, so much so that the De Kock team thought he’d be lucky to set foot on an international racetrack.

Sanshaawes has turned the corner in the desert, though, and with his versatility on turf and the all-weather could well be on the way to emulate the feats of young Sheikh Ahmed’s previous South African buy, Lucky Find (Rich Man’s Gold), who won twice at Nad Al Sheba in 2008 and claimed another Carnival prize in 2010.

Sanshaawes slipped into top gear with 400m to run, but his best route home was obscured by a pair of rival gallopers just ahead. Thankfully fixant la loi (laying down the law), is an indelible mark of Soumillon’s jockeyship. He keeps his mounts fully motivated by imposing mandatory muscle maneuvres, sometimes at the risk of equine imbroglios but never with trepidation.

Sanshaawes obliged, willingly disposed but perhaps with his eyes closed. His bravery and Soumillon’s brazenness brought the required daylight; they skipped away to settle matters in view of Meydan’s masses.

Sanshaawes, like Lucky Find, was bred and raised at Oldlands Farm near the idyllic coastal town of Hermanus in the Western Cape, where a host of South Africa’s retired politicians live out balmy days watching whales from their verandas.

In the valley near the village, breeder Barbara Sanne runs Oldlands Stud, established in 1968, on a 200ha farm. German-born Barbara started breeding as a hobby in the 1960s when she came to South Africa with her husband, the late Reinhardt Sanne, who served as CEO for the Siemens Group in South Africa.

While Barbara’s probably had many opportunities to join the grand dames of her community for tea, reminiscence and the comparing of Kruger Rand collections, she’s devoted the last 40 years of her life to perfecting her methods of finding the right nicks for a band of broodmares that’s always had plenty of quality in their ranks.

Barbara focuses on quality of life for each of her horses, aiming to produce well-balanced, correct and healthy foals. Oldlands applies modern scientific and medical methods to achieve the highest standards of fertility and prevention of infectious diseases. Their feeding rations come from selected organic sources in the Western Cape and are scientifically formulated with minerals and supplements, adjusted according to soil samples from the farm.

Most of the Oldlands staff have been with the farm since its inception, and live with their families on the farm, accessing the nearby Hermanus schools and other amenities.

Extract from Mike de Kock Racing