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De Kock says dirt comments “sensationalized”

South African trainer Mike de Kock was not particularly happy with what he considered “sensationalizing” in the republishing of selective quotes from his website following the first night of the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival.

“I think many of my comments have been sensationalized,” the champion conditioner told us from Dubai on Saturday morning.

“After Thursday, I realized taking horses that ran well on all-weather and turf to the dirt just doesn’t work. I think you have to have a specialized horse for the surface and I don’t see myself having too many of them barring Pylon.”

“I didn’t even mention the three-year-olds – I figured it was just a given, but I suppose some didn’t do their homework.”

“Mubtaahij already won on the surface,” de Kock added incredulously. “I think my comments have gone over some people’s heads.”

On December 31, de Kock debuted third-time starter Mubtaahij in a dirt maiden against older runners after two even starts on grass in the UK this autumn. Watch the video below.

“There are one or two three-year-olds that will have a try on the dirt too. You never know. One is an Asiatic Boy relation, an Argentinian, and he might do the job. The dirt is where the classics are run. Those you have to try.”

De Kock was speaking of Ajwad, a colt by Not For Sale, the same sire as UAE Triple Crown winner Asiatic Boy. Ajwad, scheduled to run next week in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial at 1,400 meters on the dirt, is out of Asian Influence, a half-sister to S.S. Asiatic, the dam of Asiatic Boy.

“It’s very simple – I’m not bemoaning the track, I’m just saying I’m changing my strategy to fit the horses we have, and that should make perfect sense. I don’t have the horses for the surface given the way the races are run, it’s as simple as that.”

“Surely it’s normal to re-strategize if the horses perform badly on a surface. You have to learn quickly or sink.”

De Kock has plenty of experience adapting to changing conditions in the UAE. The win shown above from Mubtaahij was his 150th in the United Arab Emirates.

In original comments posted on his website, de Kock added the surface has been “very good, it’s kind to horses working hard in training. But we’re badly in need of a good rain shower here. It’s a young track and still a bit loose. That’s why there’s so much kickback. It needs a chance to settle, it will improve with more racing.”

Greater success from locally-trained horses on a dirt surface at the Carnival should not be new to long-time observers. As the Dubai Racing Comprehensive published in this column, and the graphic below, UAE-based trainers accounted for 41% of all dirt wins at non-World Cup meetings in the last three years of the Carnival at Nad Al Sheba. Saeed bin Suroor and de Kock accounted for their fair share of success too, a trend that has played out over the last decade. Outside of those yards, however, success was often rare.

2015 Dubai Racing Comprehensive Data - 2007-2009 Dirt


  1. From what I have seen so far, the kickback at Meydan is more severe than that of Nad Al Sheba. I totally agree with Mike de Kock on this point and the dirt track will naturally gets better in the long run. It is a very ‘testing’ track and we’re set to have many competitive races throughout the Carnival.

  2. They need to tighten up the dirt a little bit.. compact it, and generously water to the surface prior to each race. That will eliminate most of the kickback, and also make the surface a bit more firm, which will make it a more fair racing surface as well. Not sure how the dirt is currently being maintained during race nights, but with the warm, dry climate of Dubai, it would seem that the track needs to be watered extensively, and harrowed between every race.

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