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DESERT LINKS to make Singapore debut

desert links horse
desert links horse

Desert Links : Canon Gold Cup 2008

(Photo : John Lewis)

Group 3 $200,000 Jumbo Jet Trophy

The 3200m Canon Gold Cup (Gr1) kicks off the new South African racing season on Saturday and it’s fitting that champion of the 2008 renewal, Desert Links, should embark on his Singapore campaign exactly a year from that historic day.

On Sunday 2 August, the son of Kahalwill line up in the weight-for-age Group 3 $200,000 Jumbo Jet Trophy over 1400m, for trainer David Hill and jockey Mark Gallagher aboard.

Thoroughbred News Singapore reports that David Hill is filling in as caretaker-trainer of Desert Links until Basil Marcus takes up his Singapore training post next year.

David Hill and Basil Marcus have a long history together having teamed up in Hong Kong during the 1990’s, when Hill was in the training ranks and Marcus a leading jockey.

Desert Links arrived from Dubai with trainer Herman Brown in May, when Jay Peg was in town to defend his Singapore Airlines International Cup crown. He was left behind for Basil Marcus to take over as trainer upon his arrival in Singapore.

The gelding has been in David Hill’s yard just shy of two months and to date hasn’t been asked to do anything too strenuous, although he did catch the eye with a good second in a 1000m trial on July 21.

“He’s been in my stables from around the middle of June,” said Hill. “He hasn’t been asked to do anything too strenuous to date. He’s just been out to do some long slow canters and he’s had one trial to sharpen him up a bit. He was finishing the trial off quite nicely and I’m hoping he will be doing the same in his race on Sunday.”

“I am a little concerned whether he is fit enough to run, but I thought the seven furlongs (1400m) would be a good race to start him off in. I just hope he doesn’t blow out in the straight. If he does then I’ll have to give him quite a bit more work.”

David Hill said he was quite taken with Desert Links who is a seven time winner in South Africa including two wins at “black type” level.

“He looks like a racehorse and importantly performs like one,” said Hill. “The hardest part is trying to get a guide on his form, but he certainly looks the part anyway.”

Following Sunday’s race, David Hill said he would look at stepping Desert Links up in distance in an effort to get him to his ultimate goal, the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup over 2200m in November. He explained that Desert Links would target the new “Classic” races aimed at getting more stayers into Singapore.

“There will be some nice races for him in the lead-up to the Gold Cup,” said Hill. “Those new staying races that the club will be putting on will be ideal for him. I hope that he can pick up some prizemoney along the way before I hand him over to Basil, so in the meantime I’ll just keep him ticking over through to the Gold Cup.”

Desert Links is a five-year-old by Kahal from the Home Guard mare Selborne Park. He arrived in Singapore with a rating of 97 and has raced on 22 occasions in South Africa and Dubai, registering seven wins and a further three second placings over distances of 1600m up to 3200m.


charles laird
charles laird

Please click above to enlarge

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


One of Summerhill’s most enduring and rewarding associations going back more than two decades, is with what is now known as the Charles Laird Racing Stable. With traditions stretching back almost eighty years in our case, and more than a century in theirs, our two families have a common respect and admiration for the sport of racing, and no family in a long and distinguished history of trainers in this country has bought more honour to their profession than the Lairds.

The names of Syd Garrett and Syd Laird, Charles and his cousins Alec and Dennis Drier have all created their own spaces in thoroughbred lore, and the latest saga in this great tradition is Charles’ first Championship as the nations leading trainer, which will be consummated with the close of racing’s business this calendar year at midnight on the 31st July. Already in an unassailable position, this is a championship we can already celebrate, and given the number of great horses that have passed to greatness between our respective organisations to greatness under Charles’ tutelage, Summerhill will not only be celebrating its own fifth consecutive Breeders Championship, but we’ll be remembering with considerable pleasure what Charles has achieved this year.

As dedicated and talented a horseman as this country has produced, he’s a stickler for planning and organisation and within the ranks of his business, there’s no such thing as a “minor” detail. Having to manage a string of its current proportions, is no mean feat, and Charles has surrounded himself with some serious professionals, all of whom who’ve contributed in no small way to the outcome we write of.

As we do so, we remember the names of Nhlavini, Rebel King, Bianconi, Pick Six, and Amphitheatre, among many, and a history of support at the sales and a parallel love of the game, and all we can say is, you’ve put the ghosts of last season well and truly behind you, old pal. We salute you and a remarkable team. We know what it takes ourselves, so from one champion team to another, well done.

P.S. The ghosts of last season emanated from a healthy lead going into the last month of the racing year, followed by a ding-dong battle with as formidable an opponent as the world could’ve produced, that of the Mike de Kock yard. The lead for the championship changed hands every successive weekend of the final month, punch for punch, race by race, at the final meeting of the year, to the very last event of the day.

The stuff of racing journalists and television, but not for the men who finished 2nd or 3rd. Goes to show though – you can’t get a top man down.


imbongi timeform 120
imbongi timeform 120

Imbongi joins the elite Timeform 120 club

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


It’s long been our belief that the greatest way to shape the breed positively, is to use the best racehorses as sires, and we’re on record recently as saying that our bunch is a Timeform 120. That means in order for a horse to get through the eye of the Summerhill needle, he has to impress the judges at the world’s most prestigious racing agency that he’s worthy of a 120, hence the presence in our barn of horses of the ilk of KAHAL, MULLINS BAY, SOLSKJAER, WAY WEST, STRONGHOLD, MALHUB, and now A P ARROW and ADMIRE MAIN. All of whom are 120’s or better, which entitles them to claim the mantle of being among the top ½% of racehorses worldwide.

The latest member of the club is the Summerhill-bred, Emperors Palace Ready to Run graduate IMBONGI, who earned this lofty status with his facile win in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3) at Newmarket in England.

While five consecutive Breeder’s Championships is enough to make any man proud, a performance of IMBONGI’s class against the best the world has to offer, given South Africa’s isolated history, is new turf for us and he joins PARIS PERFECT and ART OF WAR among Summerhill-raised horses to have performed with distinction at the elite international level this year.


AP ARROW and ADMIRE MAIN arrive at Summerhill

summerhill stud
summerhill stud

Please click above for a first glimpse of AP Arrow and Admire Main


If ever there was a moment in the farm’s history that is capable of altering the mainstream of events, it’s the arrival of a new stallion. Today could be epochal for us, as two of the most significant prospects set foot in their new paddocks for the first time. An awful lot has already been said about A P Arrow and Admire Main, so we’ll let the team do the talking, free of the influence of the boss, who’s hooked up in Mauritius – poor fellow!

Comments from the yard:

A P Arrow is one of the best looking horses ever to come to Summerhill”.

Stallion Manager, Greig Muir

Admire Main is wonderfully natured son of Sunday Silence, a pleasure to have in the barn”.

Stallion Manager, Greig Muir

“They are both really imposing horses – and the fact that they are both virtually free of Northern Dancer blood, and therefore ideal outcrosses, must make them even more appealing to breeders.”

Claire Curry, Mating Consultant, Juddmonte Farm, UK

“The A Team has landed!”

Heather Morkel, Business Manager

“Not one, but two, really exciting horses each with good looks and loads of presence. Lots to look forward to.”

Marlene Breed, Personal Assistant

“Both gorgeous horses, and they will do us hugely proud, fantastic to have them”.

Linda Norval, Stallion Admin Manager.

“Two very good looking stallions, I really think they will suit a lot of South African mares”.

Annet Becker, Broodmare Manager.

“Two well-bred, athletic horses with good action – if their foals look like them, we’ll be over the moon.”

Tarryn Liebenberg, Pre-training and Sales Manager.

“Two outstanding horses”.

Leigh Willson, Photographer


IMBONGI : Arlington Million charge for The Warrior

mike de kock and imbongi
mike de kock and imbongi

Mike de Kock and the warrior Imbongi

(Photo : John Lewis/DRC)

“Mike de Kock considering Arlington Million for Imbongi”

Following Imbongi’s fighting third in Saturday’s Summer Mile Stakes at Ascot, Mike de Kock is now considering an Arlington Million charge for the African Warrior.

Imbongi had made a successful British debut in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3) at Newmarket over seven furlongs just two weeks ago, and followed that performance with Saturday’s Ascot Group Two third, being beaten only a length by Aqlaam who is rated 117 and is rumored to be heading for the Breeders’ Cup.

“That was a world-class run,” said trainer Mike de Kock. “We’re considering the Arlington Million next for Imbongi.”

So who will win the Vodacom Durban July

vodacom durban july logo
vodacom durban july logo

“David Thiselton lays down his Vodacom Durban July selections”

With July Fever building to what promises to be a massive crescendo come Vodacom Durban July Raceday tomorrow; trainers, jockey and owners alike will be feeling the “butterflies”.

Top turf writer David Thiselton reports that Mike Bass, the experienced three-time July winning trainer of the great Pocket Power, who is ruling favourite, would probably have slept well, knowing he has done all he can, while the Fayd’Herbe brothers, jockey Bernard and assistant trainer Robert, will be united in spirit as they approach the final hurdle of the mighty horse’s winter campaign.

The Bass yard has two strings to its bow this July as Pocket Power’s full-sister, River Jetez, is said by the trainer to be twice the horse she was last year.

Pocket Power has had a better preparation than ever for this year’s big race and seems to be as good as ever despite his age. He and his sister could well fight out the finish, although River Jetez’s draw of 15 is a concern for supporters.

Big City Life has been described by his trainer Glen Kotzen as a “freak”, who gets better and better all the time.

Big City Life is a three-year-old and is 1,5kg under sufferance, but the form of his only meeting with Pocket Power suggests he has a great chance.

Kapil can beat Pocket Power too if the form of their last meeting is taken literally, although there is a question mark over whether he will stay the 2 200m. It should also be borne in mind that Pocket Power usually does just enough to win no matter the weight he’s carrying.

Our Giant also has a stamina doubt, but with that doubt in mind could not have asked for a better draw than two.

Tropical Empire is trained by Duncan Howells, whose knowledge of big race preparations was influenced by the great trainer, David Payne.

Duncan Howells has won two Grade 1 races with similarly priced horses and Tropical Empire’s draw of one is ideal for his style of running, which is to come with a flying finish.

Thandolwami is a similar type of horse to Tropical Empire and has also drawn well, so he should be running on strongly at the finish.

However, with both Tropical Empire and Thandolwami, it should be borne in mind that only the top six numbered horses are in the handicap i.e. fairly weighted according to their merit rating. The rest are under sufferance.

Smart Banker showed at the July gallops that he will be suited to Greyville. He has improved tremendously this season and is a definite contender, although Charles Laird’s stable jockey, Anton Marcus, switched to Our Giant after Smart Banker was allocated a wide draw.

Ruling champion trainer Mike De Kock has three youngsters in the race.

Zirconeum and Forest Path have stamina doubts and their very wide draws won’t help. Bouquet-Garni will need a strong pace as he is a big, galloping type and might not have the turn of foot required off a slower pace.

Outcome has won ten times at Greyville. Any rainfall will be bad news for her. She looks capable of staying the distance and her form makes her one of the best outsiders.

Likeithot has popped up at big prices in big races before and his July gallop last week suggested he should peak at the right time for this race.

Buy And Sell is loaded with ability but is not too reliable and his form appears to be declining slightly.

Catmandu is capable of producing a devastating finish so could be an outside contender if close enough at the top of the straight.

London Guest enjoys this track and does just enough when he wins, so there is some hope for him in his first attempt in this company.

Aluminium has been supported in the betting but as a resolute galloper does not look suited to Greyville.

The rest can’t be fancied on form.

The selection is Pocket Power to beat home Big City Life and River Jetez, with Kapil and Our Giant next best.

Mike de Kock predicts Top 6 Vodacom July Battle

mike de kock and zirconeum
mike de kock and zirconeum

Mike de Kock

(Photo : Tab Online/Phumelela/Vodacom Durban July)

“Zirconeum, Bouquet-Garni and Forest Path - The MDK Attack”

The 2009 renewal of the Vodacom Durban July “will be fought out by the top six horses in the betting and the rest will live hoping and probably die hoping” so believes trainer Mike de Kock who has three three-year-olds in the race, and none of them are in the top six in the betting.

David Thiselton writes that Mike de Kock reports all three of his runners to be very well but lamented his bad luck with the draws.

Zirconeum, a Jallad filly, is drawn 19 and will be ridden by Anthony Delpech.

Bouquet-Garni, a Strike Smartly gelding out of a Fort Wood mare, is drawn 14 and will be ridden by MJ Byleveld.

Forest Path, a Fort Wood gelding, is drawn 20 and will be ridden by Warren Kennedy.

Interestingly, all three of Mike de Kock’s charges are Grade 1 winners.

There are only six other Grade 1 winners in the field of 20, Pocket Power, Our Giant, Buy And Sell, Smart Banker, Big City Life and Outcome.

His charges’ Grade 1 status would normally be enough for them to be in with a good chance but all three, even without their draws, have question marks over their heads and are consequently 40-1, 40-1 and 50-1 in the betting respectively.

Mike de Kock rated Zirconeum as probably his best chance.

The question marks about her are that she is firstly 1kg under sufferance on merit rated terms and secondly has a stamina doubt over her head.

She quickened very well in the Champions Challenge but was run out of the placings late on to finish fifth, two lengths behind Smart Banker. The run suggested she hadn’t stayed the tough Turffontein 2000m.

She meets Smart Banker on 4kg worse terms in the July, although the weight for age scale has risen 2kg for three-year-olds since then, effectively making her only 2kg worse off.

She recently won the Grade 1 Woolavington at Greyville easily over just 200m shorter than the July, but that was against her own age and sex.

Kevin Shea was asked immediately after the race whether she would stay the July trip and replied, “You can never tell but being trained by Mike de Kock there is a good chance she will.”

The last filly to win the July was the world class Mike de Kock-trained three-year-old, Ipi Tombe. She was a class above Zirconeum and didn’t have as difficult a draw to contend with. She did face a probable stronger overall field though.

Bouquet-Garni won this season’s Grade 1 SA Derby over 2400m.

Mike de Kock felt there would have to be a fast pace for him to feature. He is a big galloping type and might not have the immediate turn of foot that is an advantage at Greyville.

Forest Path won a Grade 1 over 1400m as a juvenile at Greyville and won the Grade 1 SA Classic over 1800m at Turffontein this year.

However, the Johannesburg three-year-old form is much maligned this season and this horse is also a highly strung type who often wastes energy with his pre-race antics.

Mike de Kock felt that the top three-year-old in the country, the Glen Kotzen-trained Big City Life, had a chance on Saturday.

“He proved himself by finishing just two lengths behind Pocket Power at weight for age terms and with the weight turnaround since he must have a chance.”

He said that all four of his runners in the Grade 1 Golden Horseshoe for two-year-olds over 1400m, Solid Choice, Musir, Mr. Crazy Boy and Storm Vanadiso were very talented.

If he had to side with one it would be Musir.

“He ran off the course last time and might otherwise have beaten Solid Choice.”

However, he warned that he was not discounting Solid Choice.

“If he can overcome his wide draw and get a good position he will be a big runner too.”

He felt that 1400m might still be a touch sharp for Mr. Crazy Boy.

Mike de Kock lamented the wide draw for Gilded Minaret in the Grade 1 Garden Province but said she was very well.

Equal Image always runs well on July day,” he added before saying that the day’s racing was very competitive and the yard was hoping for good runs with all their charges.

Imbongi to make European debut

“traditional poet of the Zulu or Xhosa people who composes poetry
in praise of a leader”
(Photo : HKJC/inkokhelo/Nicholas Goss/AfricanSkies)

News filtering in from the UK is that Imbongi is set to make his European debut at Newmarket’s July Course this Saturday afternoon, June 27. (16h25 our time on DSTV Channel232)

Following a string of fine efforts in Hong Kong and Dubai earlier in the year, Mike de Kock’s charge is one of 18 challengers entered for the £65,000 Group Three John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes to be run over seven-furlongs.

The South African fighter finished a staying-on sixth last time out in the Group One Champions Mile at Sha Tin on April 26. Imbongi had previously been fourth in two Group Two races at Nad Al Sheba and was narrowly denied on his seasonal debut at the same course in a valuable seven-furlong handicap, when he just failed to collar Hatta Fort.

In South Africa last year, the Summerhill-bred Imbongi proved himself to be one of the leading milers of his generation, starting with electrifying victories in the Grade Two Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein in March and the Grade Two KZN Guineas at Greyville in April before returning to Greyville in May to destroy five previous Grade One winners in the Grade Two Drill Hall Stakes, including South African “Horse of the Year, Pocket Power.

Mike de Kock revealed to Newmarket Racecourse correspondents : “Imbongi is an intended runner in the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes as things stand. He worked on the Rowley Mile with Diana’s Choice two weeks ago and he took it well. I think that seven furlongs to a mile is his best trip and the forecast ground should be an advantage for him.”

“We had some poor ventilation in Dubai and some of the horses bled out there but he still showed a decent level of form, including when he finished in front of Vodka in a Group Two in March.”

“It wasn’t a bad performance in Hong Kong either, when he ran from quite far back. Alexandros was a neck behind him on that occasion and he went on to be second in the Lockinge Stakes, so we have some collateral form to work with.”

“Some of the top milers around ran in that race and he was too far out of his ground, but he still ran on well in the closing stages. We will hopefully start him off at Newmarket and then take his season from there.”

Imbongi looks set to face some tough opposition including Racer Forever, who got the better of King Of Dixie in a thrilling finish to last year’s race. Subsequent Group One winner Court Masterpiece was also narrowly denied in 2005 and the nine-year-old, now in the care of John Quinn after a spell at stud, could return to Newmarket following a fine third in a York conditions race on his first start for more than two years.

Ancien Regime may make his Godolphin debut following a progressive three-year-old campaign for Michael Jarvis that included victory in the Sprint on the Rowley Mile and a close sixth in the Group One Sprint Cup at Doncaster in September, while Huntdown, third in last year’s Group One Shadwell Middle Park Stakes, could also make his first appearance for Saeed bin Suroor, having previously been trained by John Gosden.

Other notable entries include Winker Watson, who enjoyed Group Two success on the July Course in the TNT July Stakes in 2007, last season’s Group One Stan James sponsored 1000 Guineas fifth Dream Eater, as well as Laa Rayb and Balthazaar’s Gift, who were third and fourth respectively in the Group Two Victor Chandler Challenge Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October.



yeats johnny murtagh gold cup
yeats johnny murtagh gold cup

Yeats and Johnny Murtagh

Gold Cup 2009

(Photo : Press Association)

Royal Ascot yesterday witnessed the carving of history as Yeats (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) put his name on the roll of honor for the Gr1 Gold Cup for an unprecedented fourth time.

The Thoroughbred Daily News writes that banishing the memory of a rare below-par effort on his return in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan April 26, Susan Magnier and Diane Nagle’s modern great justified all of the confidence that saw him hammered into 6-4 when powering to a 3 1/2-length defeat of Patkai (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}). There was a further 15 lengths back to the second favorite Geordieland (Fr) (Johann Quatz {Fr}), reinforcing the visual impression of the performance.

‘It’s unbelievable - I was so sick all morning, because I really believed this couldn’t happen and history is very hard to change’ an emotional Aidan O’Brien said.

Horses like Yeats don’t come along more than once in a lifetime and I’ve never seen scenes like it before - all the cheering and those posters and flags for him - that’s what it’s all about. It’s more than money and value with him, it’s something really special. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don’t come true, even though you dream and dream.

Yeats might not have traveled down this route had he not been injured before the Epsom Derby five years ago, but the rest is certainly history. Apart from his list of Gold Cup triumphs under three different jockeys, the stalwart of Ballydoyle had also garnered top-level successes in Epsom’s Gr1 Coronation Cup in 2005, the Curragh’s Gr1 Irish St Leger two years ago and last year’s renewal of the Gr1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp. That performance demonstrated that he was still at a peak despite his age, but while only eight months had passed to now, the evidence at Navan on his only subsequent start raised inevitable doubts.

As soon as this landmark event was underway, it was clear that the real Yeats was back on the scene and Johnny Murtagh played it cool early as his mount raced hard on the bridle close to the pace. Leaving the attack until coming out of Swinley Bottom, his rider built the customary irresistible momentum that saw the dark bay open up daylight in early stretch.

By the time Ryan Moore emerged with a flourish on the four-years younger Patkai, age was no longer an issue and the name of Yeats was stenciled onto the winner’s board once again.

Johnny Murtagh likened Yeats to Muhammad Ali beforehand and reiterated that sentiment afterwards. ‘He is the greatest - the ultimate heavyweight champ,’ Murtagh commented. ‘He loves fast ground, he loves Royal Ascot and comes alive here. It was truly one of the greatest days in my riding career. The crowd have come out in force to see him today and he’s everything that’s positive about racing.’ Aidan O’Brien added. ‘He’s very clever and has gone wise, but the boss pointed out the other morning that, in his last work, he put in four 11 1/2-second furlongs one after another.’

“When a stayer can do those times, all the class has to be there.”


VODACOM DURBAN JULY : Final Field 2009

vodacom durban july logo


Royal Ascot history for TIGER RIDGE and TRIPPI

royal ascotRoyal Ascot
(Photos : Getty/AP Photo/F1)


The purchase for stud duty in South Africa of A.P. Indy’s Storm Cat half brother, TIGER RIDGE, and Florida’s number one stallion, TRIPPI, both set new records in terms of the cost of sire-power for this country. Many a pundit was left gob-smacked at the outlay, but the protagonists behind their acquisition were of the faith that if we want this country to go to the next level as a nursery for world class horses, we have to do what it takes.

It’s times like the ones we live in though, that make us question our judgement, that tell us to reinvest our beliefs, Doubt becomes the refuge of the pessimist. Yet it’s times like this that can set us apart, and determine our futures.

Mary Slack and Gaynor Rupert, the principals behind these horses, could hardly have chosen a better place to vindicate their views than the number one race meeting in the world. Royal Ascot is not only populated by the people that matter in racing, but the message goes out to tens of millions on television. On the opening day, TIGER RIDGE displayed his wares with the impressive victory of his American-trained son STRIKE THE TIGER, in the Windsor Castle Stakes (L).

Yesterday, TRIPPI’s daughter, JEALOUS AGAIN, demolished a field of England’s best two-year-olds in the Queen Mary Stakes (Gr2), providing her adventurous American trainer, Wesley Ward, with his second Royal Ascot winner from three starters. No doubt the enterprise of this man will ensure this is by no means the last sortie among US trainers to this great showpiece.

Talking of enterprise, our top hats off to Wilgerbosdrift Stud (TIGER RIDGE) and Drakenstein Stud (TRIPPI). The entire team at Summerhill is here, saluting.


yeats and kieren fallonYeats
(Photo : Horsephoto)

Twelve months ago, Yeats (Ire) (half brother to Summerhill’s promising young sire, Solskjaer) stepped into history, equaling the feat of Sagaro (GB) by winning three renewals of the Gr1 Gold Cup. This time, Susan Magnier and Diane Nagle’s goliath is bidding to create his own legacy, and nearly all of Ascot will be holding its breath as he swings off that final turn once again.

Having made this arena his own since stepping out under Kieren Fallon for the first of those triumphs in 2006, the pride of Ballydoyle has to defy advancing years after he dropped tamely away to a distant sixth in his traditional prep, the April 26 Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.

Like all Yeats’ fans, Aidan O’Brien is just hoping the magic resurfaces. “He’s a year older and wiser than last year, so he minds himself and is clever,” said Aidan O’Brien. “He’s a marvelous horse and one of those unique horses you just sit back and look at each morning. His first run was disappointing, but that was a steadily run race in bad ground and he was still very relaxed in himself. To have him in top gear at that time of the year, it would be very hard to get him to peak again after, so I wouldn’t read that much into it. We think he’s come forward again since then and hopefully, he’ll leave that behind.”

solskjaer stallion

Mike de Kock armed for Golden Jubilee Dogfight

j j the jet plane ascotJ J The Jet Plane, Ascot
(Photo : Daily Mail)

Mike de Kock and J J The Jet Plane have captivated the interest of the UK racing media in the buildup to Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes where they will challenge for South African glory in the final Group 1 trophy of Royal Ascot 2009.

Following is an extract from yesterday’s edition of the UK’s Mirror, written by David Yates :

Royal Ascot
Saturday 20 June 2009, Race 3
The Golden Jubilee Stakes

“I feel the need… the need for speed…”

Australia plundered Saturday’s Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2003 with King’s Stand Stakes hero Choisir.

Two years later, the six furlong sprint - run at York while Ascot was being rebuilt - went to Hong Kong raider Cape Of Good Hope.

Now J J The Jet Plane is the bookies’ favourite to make racing history by taking the prize to South Africa.

But victory for the five-year-old would mark just the latest overseas plunder for Mike De Kock, the trainer who has made his name dispatching runners from his Johannesburg base to capture some of the biggest races on the planet.

A decade ago Mike de Kock came to Ascot with a view to sending his stable star Horse Chestnut for a clash with Europe’s top middle-distance cream in the King George.

The plan to run didn’t come off, but a sortie to America saw Horse Chestnut demolish his rivals in Gulfstream Park’s prestigious Broward Handicap - and Mike de Kock was bitten by the travel bug.

“In any sport, you want to pitch yourself against your peers abroad,” explains the 45 year-old Mike de Kock, who as a boy became fascinated by the goings-on at Johannesburg’s Newmarket racecourse, a couple of furlongs from his family home.

After a couple of years in the Equestrian Unit of the SA Defence Force, Mike de Kock learned his trade in the training ranks of his native city before taking out a licence in his own name in 1989.

“The ambition to run Horse Chestnut in the King George didn’t take place, but it was his win in America that whet my appetite for international competition.

“I came across to Ascot and I thought, ‘This is what I want.’ But you’ve got to have the horses to be competitive.

“Sitting in South Africa, you’re looking abroad and everything in America and England looks so big, and you’re almost nervous to have a crack at it.” The exploits of the ex-Zimbabwean mare Ipi Tombe, which included a track-record win in Dubai’s Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night in 2003, established Mike de Kock as a force on the international scene.

“I felt Ipi Tombe was good enough to race abroad,” he recalls. “I felt, ‘If there’s a better horse, then I want to see it.” “We didn’t really know how competitive we would be until we took our horses abroad.”

“We thought she would be competitive, but I didn’t imagine she would win in Dubai like she did.”

Ipi Tombe was crowned Dubai Horse of the Year for 2003, while Mike de Kock topped the trainers’ list at its spring meeting five years running from 2004.

Last year he even improved Aidan O’Brien cast-offs Archipenko and Eagle Mountain to score at the highest level in Hong Kong last year.

But success at Royal Ascot represents uncharted territory for Mike de Kock, who recruited dual Group 1 winner J J The Jet Plane to race at the Dubai Carnival this spring.

A Group 3 winner at Nad Al Sheba in February, the gelded son of champion South African speedster Jet Master arrived at his summer base in Newmarket last month, before warming up for Ascot in a Listed sprint at Windsor.

J J The Jet Plane lived up to his odds of 4-7 by four lengths from Intrepid Jack, and Mike de Kock admits: “I would have been very disappointed if he’d got beat or struggled to win.”

“People have said it wasn’t a very accomplished field, but I’ve gone back on the form and the other horses have some pretty good form.”

“The second is rated 107 and we’ve given him 7lbs and a four-length beating, so J J’s got to be running very close to his mark and I thought it was a good win.”

“He’s a very straightforward horse. He’s got exceptional speed and he’s also got that kick, that stamina with his speed, that I think makes him a horse that is going to be competitive on the world stage.”

The nomadic life travelling from one major racing carnival to another suits Mike de Kock, who has no plans for permanent settlement in Britain, adding: “I’m very happy to follow the sun - it would be difficult for me to make a base because in the winter I don’t want to be here!” Weather-wise a British summer comes with no guarantees, but Mike de Kock is already an enthusiastic convert to the domestic racing programme.

“You get some unbelievable meetings here and some of the best horses in the world to race.”

The Derby is followed by Royal Ascot, which gets followed up by the July meetings, which gets followed up by York - Jesus, it doesn’t stop!”

“If I’ve got a top horse then I don’t believe there’s a place in the world that gives you the same value as England does - as a stallion or broodmare prospect.”

“You really, really are spoilt for really good racing at the top end.”

POCKET POWER claims tenth Gr.1 victory

Pocket Power
(Photo : Gold Circle)

The amazing six-year-old Pocket Power raced to his tenth Gr.1 victory in Saturday’s Gold Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood. The son of Jet Master, who has now earned more than R8.3million, beat Kapil (Jallad) by just over a length. Pocket Power’s year younger full-sister River Jetez was third.

The European Bloodstock News reports that Pocket Power was bounced out of the stalls very smartly by his regular jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe and took a strong hold down the back straight, settling in behind his pacemaking stablemate Blue Tiger and Buy And Sell. Bernard Fayd’herbe had no option but to let him go at the 400 metre pole but, as is customary, he slipped into cruise control at that point and contributed no more than he had to, to hold a fast-finishing Kapil at bay.

Pocket Power will head for Greyville early next month where he will attempt to claim a second Vodacom Durban July victory.


ap arrow dubaiA.P. Arrow
(Photo : AP Photo)

A glance at the number of publications that carried the news of A.P. Arrow’s importation to Summerhill and South Africa tells us that this is a big “item” horse in the real sense of “big”. Just about every worthwhile daily racing publication in the world covered his story, a veritable who’s who of the game. It takes a “heavy” to make newsworthy reading, and A.P.Arrow’s standing in the pantheon of racing was obvious from the popularity of his story. Here’s a list of the publications.

Thoroughbred Times
A.P. Arrow to stand in South Africa

Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

Tab Online
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

A.P.Arrow to stand in South Africa

Daily Racing Form

Gold Circle
Summerhill and co acquire a top son of A.P. Indy

SA Horseracing
Grade 2 Hero A P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

Breeding & Racing Magazine

Global News Blog
AP Arrow to stand in South Africa

Thoroughbred Internet
A.P.Arrow to stand stud in South Africa

Hatena Antenna

European Bloodstock News

Thoroughbred Daily News

Racing Post
Grade 2 hero A P Arrow to stud in South Africa

A.P. Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Horse Racing Nation
AP Arrow to Stand in South Africa

Mike de Kock Racing
A.P. Indy stallion comes to Summerhill

Thoroughbred Champions
Pioneering to Brazil, A.P. Arrow to South Africa

Breeding Racing
US Sire A.P Arrow To Stud in South Africa

CBS Sports
A.P. Arrow to stand in S.Africa

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MEDAGLIA D’ORO : A windfall for Sheikh Mohammed

Medaglia D’Oro
(Photo : Thoroughbred Times)

There’s been plenty of news of late of new property acquisitions by Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and then on Friday we were greeted by the announcement that he had purchased the “hottest” young stallion in the United States, Medaglia D’Oro. Those that attended the 2007 version of the Dubai World Cup will recall Medaglia D’Oro’s stirring battle in the closing stages of the world’s richest race when he succumbed, only just, to the persistent urgings of Pleasantly Perfect, and we can attest, following a recent visit there, to the fact that Medaglia D’Oro has let down into one of the most spectacular specimens of a young stallion imaginable.

Besides having spawned the highest rated filly (of any age) in the world right now in the form of Rachel Alexandra, (20 ¼ winner of the Kentucky Oaks (Gr.1) just over a month ago, and vanquisher of the colts in the second leg of the American Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (Gr.1), Medaglia D’Oro rewarded Sheikh Mohammed’s boldness within a day, with yet another Grade One winner from his first crop in the shape of Gabby’s Golden Gal, who walked off with the laurels in the Acorn Stakes (Gr.1) at the Belmont meeting in New York.

Medaglia D’ Oro’s sire, El Prado, is something of an aberration as a stallion. A son of the thirteen time European Champion, Sadler’s Wells, he raced exclusively in Ireland on turf, and was a Grade One winner of the National Stakes as a two-year-old before his acquisition by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs (champion breeders of America and clients of Summerhill) where he was asked to embark on a career as a proven grass horse in a “dirty”country. El Prado warmed to his new career with relish, twice topping the American sires log, and it now looks as if he might make a third career for himself as a sire of sires. Everything about him suggested that success on the dirt tracks of the United States was an unlikely outcome to his career, yet it goes to show, there is little we can do to predict the future of stallions, besides educated guessing.

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INVESTEC DERBY : Do you want your own Cape Cross?

sea the stars (pa)Sea The Stars (Cape Cross)
2009 Investec Derby (Gr1)
(Photo : Press Association)

Sea The Stars (Cape Cross) comfortably landed the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, the first horse to complete the 2000 Guineas / English Derby double since Nashwan in 1989. The Cape Cross half-brother to Galileo travelled smoothly all the way, quickening clear with a furlong to go, to easily claim his second Classic in as many runs. Aidan O’Brien saddled the next four home.

Click here to visit Summerhill’s “Horses In Training Page”  to view our offering of horses in training, including an exceptionally well bred son of Cape Cross.

ADMIRE MAIN : Africa's First Son of Sunday Silence

admire main africa rss

Many people appear to think this is not a sensible time to be investing in assets of any kind, let alone racehorses. Yet in the annals of the Goss family, it’s only a matter of history repeating itself. When Pat Goss snr found himself in the winner’s circle in the aftermath of St Pauls’ victory in the 1946 Durban July, he immediately set out to acquire a son of the world’s pre-eminent stallion at the time, Hyperion, applying the entire first prize to the purpose.

Just a month ago, the Summerhill contingent returned to the farm from a triumphant National Yearling Sale. Within a matter of weeks, they’d applied the entire proceeds (and then a bit) to the acquisition of two new stallion prospects, one of which, A.P.Arrow, was the subject of this column a fortnight ago.

In another ground-breaking event in a long-standing history of “firsts”, the nation’s leading breeders have teamed up with Japan’s perennial Champion establishment, Shadai Stallion Station and Northern Farm, in bringing this continent its first son of Sunday Silence. While it would insult his fame to repeat the detail of his achievements here, it’s fair to say, Sunday Silence has had as profound a breed- shaping impact on the evolution of the thoroughbred as any stallion of the modern era.