MIKE de Kock will saddle seven runners at the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday and all of them looked in great shape at Mike’s Dubai base on Thursday afternoon, none more so than ageing Prayer For Relief who runs in the $1-million Godolphin Mile.
ROBERT GARNER reports that the eight-year-old looked an absolute picture and is not without a chance of being involved in the finish, based on a close third to Maftool over the course and distance last month.
Mike’s best shot at landing his 13th winner at the world’s richest race meeting? Undoubtedly Vale Dori who is out to give Mike his seventh success in the $2-million UAE Derby over 1900m. Unbeaten Polar River, trained locally by Doug Watson, is the talk of the town, but Vale Dori got within three parts of a length of her in the UAE Oaks this month in her first run for 10 months and should improve lengths.
Mike’s also got a real chance of winning the Dubai World Cup with last year’s UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij.
It’s of course at the Dubai World Cup race meeting, the richest in the world with total prize money of $30 million, that he has made his mark internationally and simultaneously catapulted South African horseracing into the international spotlight.
It all started back in 2003 when Mike stunned South Africa – and every other racing country in the world – by landing an astonishing double with Victory Moon and Ipi Tombe in the UAE Derby and the Dubai Duty Free (now the Dubai Turf) respectively.
He’s had 10 more winners at the showcase meeting since and that’s more than anybody barring Godolphin’s trainer Saeed Bin Suroor, who has infinitely more firepower.
Mubtaahij is not the best horse in Saturday’s line-up, but on the quirky Dubai dirt circuit he may not have to be.
His dress rehearsal on Super Saturday has to be forgotten and he showed enough in the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby on his journey to the USA last year to suggest that with home-ground advantage he could pose a real threat to the USA raiders.
He ran fourth in the 2400m Belmont Stakes in New York after pressing superstar winner American Pharoah into the straight and was only 2.25 lengths behind runner-up Frosted.
Back home and with a bit of luck in running Mubtaahij should get much closer to Frosted and certainly looks better value at 16-1 than his rival at 5-2.
Make no mistake, California Chrome, USA Horse of the Year in 2014 when he won two legs of the Triple Crown, is the one they all have to beat. At best he’s awesome, but the Dubai dirt proved his undoing last year when he was floored by nine-year-old track specialist Prince Bishop.
In the Dubai Turf, Solow looked the best of good things but has stayed in France because of injury and the race now looks open. Intilaaq was due to go for the Dubai World Cup, but has been switched to this race because of Solow’s absence and it could pay off. Tryster and Mike’s
Forries Waltz got lucky in the draw for starting gate positions and have strong claims. He also has former Cape Derby winner Ertijaal (AUS) in the race.
Photo: Mike de Kock with Ertijaal. (Andrew Watkins).