Home / Dubai Racing Comprehensive / 2015 Dubai Racing Comprehensive: Mike de Kock’s massive Carnival string

2015 Dubai Racing Comprehensive: Mike de Kock’s massive Carnival string

South Africa’s international racing superstar trainer, Mike de Kock is back in full force for the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival with a massive string and high hopes. For those that aren’t Carnival regulars, here is a quick recap of the particulars.

De Kock’s 2015 DWCC runners can be divided into three groups – horses that stayed through the summer in the UAE, horses that came from de Kock’s UK base in Newmarket (and may have previously been in the UAE or South Africa), and horses freshly shipped in from South Africa.

It’s that last group that really endures the travel. To be exported from South Africa, horses must be quarantined for nearly a month in their home country before spending three months out of substantial training on the island nation of Mauritius, then a month in Europe before being allowed to go on to the UAE.

“It’s not easy,” says de Kock, who gave DubaiRaceNight.com a long preview of his yard for the 2015 campaign. “There are two main quarantine stations in Mauritius, and where we were did not have a trotting ring. Horses can only be out of their boxes from two hours after sunrise to two hours before sunset, so with those limitations we got a bit creative. Daily, we would put two horses in a pen to shadowbox, and they actually maintained their muscle pretty well.”

“It worked quite well in keeping them sound and they have kept good tone. They did not lose condition or get fat. I actually have them leaner than previous years and like us, it’s easier to put some more weight on them than take it off.”

Thanks to de Kock’s generosity of time, here are some of his thoughts on just a selection of the massive string he is bringing to the 2015 Carnival.

South African Shippers

Ad Idem
Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

This filly made two starts at two before shipping. By Jet Master out of a Camden Park mare, she won on debut at Clairwood over the turf and ran a close third in a Grade 2 three months later.

“She has only sprinted, but is looking for at least seven furlongs or a mile. She is in the same boat as Shahrasal and will go down that route for now.”

Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Two from four on the sand, this gelding by Stronghold is unexposed in better company and seems an under-the-radar, progressive type similar to a few others who have come from South Africa in the past and kicked-on.

“He’s only rated 89 on the dirt, and that’s very useful. I believe he’ll win on the local circuit and get Carnival eligible, and he can win there too. He was never fully exposed at home. There is a big ‘plus-sign’ after that rating.”

Atomic Rush
Owner: Wernar, Wernar, Stephen

With Stuart Pettigrew in South Africa, Atomic Rush was a two-time winner last season through only six starts and is heartily supported by de Kock.

“He is very interesting off a 104 rating. He was beaten very good horses early in his career and never beaten too far. Stuart recommended he come to the Carnival and thought he would mature. He did very well through the quarantine and there should be a big plus next to that rating too. We are looking at a January start for him, and could end up in the Dubai City of Gold on Super Saturday.”

Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Starting his career with consecutive wins over seven days, the 3-year-old Banaadeer leveled off a bit in tougher company in his two subsequent starts. His dam produced a Group 2 winner and Group 1 placer in Hong Kong, Admiration.

“He traveled fairly well but is taking some time to get fit. He’s very fast, and I’m not convinced he’ll stay the classic trips. Being by More Than Ready, we think he’ll go on the dirt too, but probably at the sprint distances.”

Banaadeer is rated 108 on both surfaces. Below is video of his running second in the S A Nursery (G1) from April 26, 2014

Owner: Ingrid & Markus Jooste

A three-time winner from five starts on the Vaal sand, Contador owns eight lifetime trips to the winner’s enclosure from 19 attempts. His biggest lifetime score came on grass, though, in the Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint at Scottsville in 2013 when ignored at 11-1. In that race, he beat Merhee into third, an entire who came to the 2014 Carnival and managed just one second from four starts.

“He has run on both surfaces in South Africa and comes in rated 108 on dirt, and 111 turf. He’s not the soundest, so might be aimed for later in the Carnival. We’re hoping the Golden Shaheen is the plan, via Mahab Al Shimaal.”

Forries Waltz
Owner: Gerber, de Kock

This unbeaten son of Greys Inn will almost assuredly be on track for the UAE Derby, and is, on paper, the most impressive of the sophomore candidates this season. A winner at 25-1 on debut, he won twice more, and up to 1,600 meters. On debut, Forries Waltz bested Light the Lights and Mootahadee, both of whom have come back to win, the former in his next start and the latter two starts later.

“A nice 3-year-old. At this stage, we aren’t sure we’ll have him ready for Guineas Trial as he has been touch and go for fitness, but is certainly a horse we think is on the Guineas, Al Bastakiya, UAE Derby trail. The Rich Man’s Gold offspring have done very well on dirt. If he does like we think he will, he’ll be a runner.”

Below, watch Forries Waltz win his stakes debut in the Gatecrasher from June.

Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

A two-time starter, Mastermind was a debut winner at Scottsville last March before running second in a Grade 2 event.

“He’s by Var, who is by Storm Cat, so we are confident he will go on the dirt and anticipate he’ll be in all the big 3-year-old races, and hope he starts in the 1,400-meter trial too.”

Owner: Van Vuuren, Van Vuuren

An exposed gelding with nine wins from 24 lifetime starts, this guy is likely to take his spot in handicap company. Much to his benefit is the surface switch to dirt, as eight of Pylon’s nine lifetime wins came on sand courses, and all between 1,600 and 1,800 meters. Pylon has made twelve starts in total on the sand, with three seconds and just one non-placing. An intriguing prospect for the dirt at Meydan, Pylon is by Fort Wood out of the Goldkeeper mare Golden Cell.

“With Michael Azzie, Pylon was the best dirt horse in South Africa. He had a very high dirt rating there, but he kept on racing the same horses and beating them. We think he’s very useful and will probably start with the second round of the Maktoum Challenge and see how he fits.”

Red Ray
Owner: Ingrid & Markus Jooste

Out of the placings just once, Red Ray has four wins and five placings from ten starts. This 4-year-old actually defeated Legislate by 2 ½ lengths in the Cape Classic (G3) in October 2013. Legislate would go on to finish second past the post in the 2014 Vodacom Durban July before being promoted the winner in the stewards’ room.

“He is an incredibly smart horse and is training like a demon on the dirt, he definitely gives off Group 1 quality. We will probably start him off in the Al Fahidi Fort and go from there.”

Rock Cocktail
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

Off since December 2013 when third in a listed race, this gelding has been in close attendance to Jebel Hatta winner Vercingetorix during that year, running fifth beaten a length behind him in the Daily News 2000.

“He was a bit behind the fitness level of some others and should be ready for maybe the third or fourth meeting of the Carnival. He’s rated 105 and has some improvement in him.”

Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

A maiden winner made four starts as a juvenile, this filly by Shamardal seems well-bred to progress over longer distances. On her debut, she was just 2 ½ lengths behind Pine Princess, who was later beaten less than a length in the big juvenile filly race on the Vodacom Durban July card.

“As a Shamardal, we think she might have a chance on the dirt. She was running in some decent stakes company and probably wants more than a mile, which she hasn’t run over yet.”

Via Africa
Owner: Boshoff, Haupfleisch

Grass sprinter brought through the quarantine, this filly by Var is a ten-time winner from sixteen starts, including three at the Grade 1 level in South Africa. Back in 2013, her two seconds behind What a Winter in Grade 1 company are shining placings. Previously with Duncan Howells, Via Africa has never been beyond 1,200 meters, and does have plenty of dirt pedigree if you go back into her second generation and beyond.

“She is doing very well. We expect her to start here on January 29th in a grass handicap at five furlongs on turf, then to Super Saturday for the Meydan Sprint, then the Al Quoz Sprint

Via Africa winning the 2014 S A Fillies Sprint (G1)

Shea Shea took the same approach when winning the latter two races in 2013.

Whistle Stop
Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

After five starts as a juvenile, including two wins and two seconds, Whistle Stop did not come back with the same gusto in two starts in 2014 over a six-day span in late May. While both of his wins came over 1,400 meters, this son of Silvano is bred go much farther

“A very nice type. His last couple runs were disappointing in SA, and he wasn’t himself then. His earlier form was top, and he wasn’t far off Group 1 calibre. Rated 101, we should have him ready for the second meeting as he’s very athletic horse and doesn’t take a ton of work. Fort Wood’s do well on dirt back home, so we will have a crack there.”

Owner: Kantor, Jooste, Lewis, Jooste

A three-time Grade 1 winner, Yorker is the most accomplished older horse to come through the quarantine. Previously with Geoff Woodruff, the gelded son of Jet Master has been a winner from 1,400 meters up to 2,000.

“He’s had a few problems in the past, but is absolutely top class. We expect him to debut later in the Carnival, possibly starting in the Al Rashidiya or maybe the Zabeel Mile. He’s a Duty Free runner, that’s for sure. There is no need to run him down early fast, he’ll be ready for the big ones.

Below, Yorker wins the Sansui Summer Cup (G1) from December 2013.

“If the owners wanted to try the dirt in the World Cup, I’d be tempted to go for it. We’d have to face the Americans, but he’s very good.”

New European Imports

A contingent from Europe, including quite a few former Coolmore runners have joined the yard and are grouped in the European import category. It’s worth noting de Kock started maiden MUBTAAHIJ in a maiden on December 31, his third lifetime start and first in the UAE, and won, giving the yard a win over the dirt in their first start.

Darwin (USA)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

With Todd Pletcher in America, he was just a maiden winner before spending two seasons with Aidan O’Brien. He beat multiple Group 1 winner Gordon Lord Byron in the Minstrel (G3) at the Curragh back in 2013 and then took out Carnival stalwarts Russian Soul, Jamesie, and Dandy Boy when winning the Belgrave Stakes at Fairyhouse. His best run on grass, though, was when he was just more than a length behind Kingman in the Sussex Stakes (G1).

Darwin’s career debut on dirt

“I’m particularly happy with him. He’s had a good rest and I really like what I see. We don’t think he’ll be ready before the Firebreak Stakes, but that is a legitimate goal to start. He is rated 113 and we have to get him back on the dirt, and my gut says he’ll go back on it. If he doesn’t for whatever reason, he might land in the Zabeel Mile.”

Darwin’s win in Belgrave Stakes

Flying the Flag (IRE)
Owner: Wilgerbosdrift Stud

There were hopes he would make the 2014 DWCC but never came to hand. He raced twice this past summer without making a significant impression, though beaten less than two lengths at York behind Custom Cut in the Strensall, which was in the midst of his five race winning streak.

“I was hoping to have him ready for the first meeting, but think we’ll aim for the third meeting. I’m not totally convinced he stays the longer trips, so we are likely to start over nine or ten furlongs and kick off from there.”

Fountain of Youth (IRE)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

A narrow winner of the Sapphire (G3) at the Curragh, he bested Extortionist in that race who went on to slim defeats in the King George (G2) and was just a half-length behind Sole Power in the Nunthorpe (G1). That said, Fountain of Youth was a surprise in that race, scoring at 14-1, and just a winner of two races lifetime.

“We’re seeing that he is very fast. While his best form seems limited to five furlongs so far, he’s big in frame, and there is no reason to think he won’t go on the dirt.”

General Marshall (USA)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

By War Front out of a Dixie Union mare, there should be no doubt where he is aimed. A maiden still, thrice beaten less than a length, he has had three turf starts and two on the all-weather.

“He is absolutely tailor-made for dirt and training well. We need to win a race with him first before we set sights too high, but he has a ton of potential and are excited about him.”

Sugar Boy (IRE)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

Unstarted since November 2013, he is a one-time stakes winner when taking the Classic Trial (G3) at Sandown in April of that year. Most notable, perhaps, is his juvenile win when two lengths in front of the new Hong Kong superstar, and reigning HK Horse of the Year, Designs On Rome.

“He’s been disappointing considering what he did at two. He wasn’t sound when we first got him in 2014 and I’m not completely convinced he stays. We might aim for the mile or ten furlongs.”

Tannaaf (IRE)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

Incredibly impressive when a winner on debut at Newmarket in July, the next four finishers behind him have all come back to win since. He clipped heels early in that start and nearly came to grief, but was gathered by Pat Cosgrave and ran away with ease.

“We brought him to Dubai and he has been training very well on dirt. The intention was originally to just give him the winter here and be open minded the future, but from what I’ve seen, I’m probably keen to give him a go. He is maturing. What is most impressive to us is that he seems to want ten to twelve furlongs, but was so impressive on debut over seven.”

Toscanelli (IRE)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

A maiden winner, he was later used as a rabbit in the National Stakes (G1), won by Gleneagles, but only beaten 6 ¾ lengths in that employ.

“He is a smallish type and hasn’t shown any fireworks yet. We are just building up with him.”

Returning Horses

Mujaarib (AUS)
Owner: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Surprising with a win in the Al Rashidiya (G2) in his UAE debut, he was only third in his next start before fizzling out in the Dubai City of Gold (G2).

“We expect him to come on later in the season as he has had a few niggling issues, but might run him first up in the Al Rashidiya to defend his title.”

Sanshaawes (SAF)
Owner: Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

Second in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge (G1), he was a winner on both grass and all-weather at the Carnival last year. He ran his Dubai World Cup at the barrier and never really had a chance.

“No complaints with him, he’s going well. My gut feeling is that he won’t go on the dirt, but we will probably try it at some point. At this stage, he is likely to start on grass in the Singspiel Stakes at the first Carnival meeting.”

Star Empire (SAF)
Owner: Mohammed Khaleel Ahmed

Third in the 2014 Dubai Gold Cup, beaten just 2 ½ lengths, this eight-year old is a Carnival stalwart and is almost always in the mix with ten finishes in the first three from 12 starts in the UAE.

“He’s actually doing very well. The long distance runs are likely again with a long handicap then the Nad Al Sheba Trophy and the Dubai Gold Cup.”

Vercingetorix (SAF)
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

A winner of the Jebel Hatta (G1) on Super Saturday, he was second behind Just A Way in the Dubai Duty Free (G1), one of the world’s top performances of the year. This guy is back for another campaign after spelling following a third in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1).

“After his run in HK, he was pretty run down. He’s been back in the UAE for a while and training well. We’ll plan on starting him in the Al Rashidiya and go on from there, repeating the same campaign.”

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