South African trainer Mike de Kock is set to saddle seven runners at Saturday’s Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan. The meeting offers prize money of $30-million (R366-million), with $10-million up for grabs on the Dubai World Cup itself, over 2000m on the dirt.
Viewing entries in
$1 MILLION GODOLPHIN MILE (Group 2)
Meydan, All-Weather, 1600m
29 March 2014
South Africa’s two time horse of the year, Variety Club overcame a difficult post position in gate 15 of 16 to run out the winner of the Group 2 US$1 million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Meydan Sobha for trainer Joey Ramsden and his jockey Anton Marcus. In doing so he had a length to spare over fellow South African and defending champion Soft Falling Rain, who made a brave bid to become the first horse since Godolphin’s Firebreak to win back to back runnings of the Godolphin Mile in 2003 and 2004.
Anton Marcus took the bull by the horns as the gates opened and sent Variety Club to the head of affairs, from where the horse was able to settle into a lovely rhythm and reel off easy fractions. Set alight by Marcus at the head of the stretch, Variety Club was always in control and had enough in the tank to gallop resolutely to the wire to hold Soft Falling Rain’s gallant effort by a length in 1:37.28. Soft Falling Rain just held off the late closing effort of the French filly Flotilla by a nose.
Trainer Joey Ramsden said: “To come here to compete means a lot, but to win is something special. Anton gave him a fantastic ride, and he got into a soft lead, and this gives me so much pleasure and all of South Africa. It may take a while to sink in.”
Jockey Paul Hanagan was full of praise for Soft Falling Rain’s efforts. “He has run a great race, and it’s no disgrace to be beaten by the winner. He was beaten by a very good horse and the race went exactly as I would have liked it to.”
Mikel Delzangles said of his third place finisher, the French 1000 Guineas winner Flotilla, “She has run very well, but it was a shame that they slowed down the pace and that she had to come on the outside, it’s difficult to do on this track. I don’t know if she stays in training or goes to stud.”
The disappointment of the race was Shuruq who was bidding to give Godolphin’s trainer Saeed bin Suroor a record 11th win in this race, and who was never seen with a chance, finishing in 8th spot.
“She wasn’t really traveling that well. That’s the fourth race she’s had over here (this season),” said rider Silvestre De Sousa. “She’s a bit front. I couldn’t make any ground.”
Extract from Dubai Racing Club
Soft Falling Rain / Dubai Racing Club//Andrew Watkins (p)
$1 MILLION GODOLPHIN MILE (Group 2)
Meydan, All-Weather, 1600m
29 March 2014
When winning the $1million Godolphin Mile sponsored by Meydan Sobha, 12 months ago the Mike de Kock-trained Soft Falling Rain (SAF) became the first three-year-old to win the Group 2 1600m all-weather contest.
This year, the HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned runner, who also won last year’s UAE 2000 Guineas, attempts to become the third horse to record consecutive victories in this race.
He has had one run so far this season, over an inadequate 1200m on Super Saturday and will appreciate the return to 1600m. He is also well drawn this year, which he certainly was not 12 months ago.
De Kock said: “He was badly in need of his sprint outing on Super Saturday and as I have said all along, bearing in mind he will be busy in Europe after this, Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup night were his two planned outings. We have a good draw this year, unlike 12 months ago, and he should be competitive.”
The maximum field of 16 have been declared, including Godolphin’s Shuruq (USA), winner of last year’s UAE Oaks and twice a course and distance winner this season.
Winner of the 1600m Group 2 first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge on the opening night of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival, she also won the Group 3 Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday.
Her trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, is seeking a 12th victory in the race and he said: “She won last year’s UAE Oaks and has two course and distance victories to her name this season. She just loves this all-weather surface and is a far better filly on it than turf.
“It is another tough race but she is tough and remains in great form.”
Soft Falling Rain is not the only South African-trained runner in the field and is joined by dual South African Horse Of The Year, Variety Club (SAF). A course and distance winner on his local debut, he found Shuruq too strong on Super Saturday and, if to gain revenge, he has to overcome stall 15.
Trained near Abu Dhabi by Ernst Oertel, Capital Attraction (USA) was third in that Super Saturday contest and should be competitive if able to get across from his draw in 12.
Oertel said: “We would have preferred a lower draw but he is in good form and tough so, with a bit of luck, should have a chance in a competitive race.”
Flotilla (FR), winner of the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in 2012 and last year’s French 1000 Guineas, disappointed on her local debut in the Cape Verdi but was a good second in the Balanchine on her one subsequent outing. If adapting to this new surface, she should go well for Mikel Delzangles.
Utopia won this for Japan in 2006 but their representative this year, Brightline (JPN), is another with a wide draw.
Forjatt (IRE), winner of the Group 3 Jebel Ali Mile for Dhruba Selvaratnam, was fourth to Shuruq on Super Saturday, while Gabrial (Ire), Eastern Rules (Ire), Elleval (Ire) and Gold City (Ire) all managed to win at the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
Fifth in this in 2012, the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Haatheq (USA) chased home Soft Falling Rain last year when looking set to score with 200m to run. He too is owned by Sheikh Hamdan.
Extract from Dubai Racing Club
Animal Kingdom’s owners John Messara of Arrowfield Stud and Barry Irwin of Team Valor International
with winning jockey Joel Rosario receiving the Dubai World Cup
(Photo : Sport360)
“That’s five from six, which sounds more like a Dale Steyn
bowling return than a regular Summerhill tipping sheet.”
Let me confess, these columns are not known for any particular science in predicting the outcome of a horse race. We’re far too sentimental to be good tipsters, but occasionally we get it right. In our ramblings in the lead up to the weekend, we went out on a limb and named a few fancies.
You might argue that Shea Shea was a certainty in the $1million Al Quoz Sprint (Gr.1) in Dubai, but there’s no such thing on a world stage, particularly in an international field where the talents of the protagonists are beyond comparison. Nor could you have anticipated that he’d smash a course record which just three weeks before, he’d made his own. The son of former Summerhill sire, National Emblem, deservedly heads for Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes (Gr.1), where the world might just be treated to one of the great sprinting contests of all-time. Black Caviar is 24 from 24 as matters stand, and while she’s earned her rating as the second best horse on the planet, her connections will be the first to acknowledge that she took down a tame field in England last year. It would take a brave man to suggest that Shea Shea has her measure, but Australia is no longer the breeding ground for the out-and-out blinding speed it used to be. Increasingly, the influence of shuttle stallions has blunted the profile of the aptitudes for which Australian thoroughbreds were once famous, and whatever the outcome, on the evidence of his exertions in Dubai, Shea Shea will be a worthy foe for one of the best sprinters the world has known.
In hindsight, a seven-for-seven record tells us that anyone betting against Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile on Saturday, needed a shrink. Yet in its 18 renewals, the $1million race has never been won by a three-year-old, and that tells you something. Besides, he was drawn on the rank outside and that’s where he remained well into the finishing stretch. Pressed four and five wide for the duration of the race, the colt galloped right to the line, and he takes an unblemished record to Royal Ascot as well. The Beck family have produced some crackers in their time at Highlands and Maine Chance, but this fellow might be the pinnacle of their endeavours.
There’s not much more we can say about Mike de Kock as a racehorse trainer. As one of the greatest exponents of the art the world has known, we’ve come to expect these things from him. But even then, you’d not have stretched your anticipation to two track records, and a cracking second from The Apache in the $5million Duty Free. There have been some remarkable performances by some remarkable horses over the Dubai turf in the past two decades, and yet here we are, with the fastest 1000 and 1600 metres ever. Add to that Golden Sword’s 2000 metre still-standing record, and you’d have to believe he gives them wings.
You might have said there was no genius in picking Animal Kingdom for the $10million Dubai World Cup, and here we’d have to admit to some sentiment. He belongs to two old mates, Arrowfield’s John Messara and Team Valor’s Barry Irwin, so we might have tagged him anyway. We were on hand for his big day in America’s biggest horse race, the Kentucky Derby, though, and that and his “prep” for Dubai was enough for us. Remember too, that when we fingered him, he was only the fourth choice on the betting boards, shortening a bit when Monterosso defected at the last minute.
How many mares get two Group winners at the same race meeting? It’s happened before, but it’s not your everyday occurrence. While we were in Australia a fortnight back, Helsinge had the lofty distinction of having two Group One winners on the same weekend, though at different venues. Both are exceptional: Black Caviar is already a household name, and her younger brother, All Too Hard, is on his way to becoming one. He is already the best three-year-old in Australasia, and he might just be as good as they get anywhere in the world.
That shouldn’t detract though, from Bridget Oppenheimer’s spectacular achievement on Saturday. Not only was the winner of the Harry Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr.1)Slumdogmillionaire, appropriately bred at her nursery, Mauritzfontein, but so too, was the sublime victress of the SA Fillies Classic (Gr.1), Cherry On The Top and the gusty winner of the Jacaranda Handicap (Gr.3)Cherry On The Cake. The best measure of a great mare is one capable of getting good horses no matter her mates, and the Oaks-winning Carolina Cherry has done just that. This is a family affair: the Triple Crown aspirant who might just be the best South African-bred filly we’ve seen in decades, is a daughter of Mary Slack’s Tiger Ridge, while Cherry On The Cake is by the sadly deceased Strike Smartly, sire too, of Slumdogmillionaire. The family traces to Sir Mordaunt Milner’s great foundation producer, Miss Therese, dam of the Kannemeyer-trained Guineas winner, Man Of Property.
Revisit our column, Classics And Clues on Friday last, and you’ll find “Slumdog” and the “Cherry” in the mix as well. That’s five from six, which sounds more like a Dale Steyn bowling return than a regular Summerhill tipping sheet. Without in any way wanting to diminish your faith in our picking abilities, we have to confess that Tellina was our choice for the Colt’s Classic. Thank goodness we got that one wrong!
Watch Soft Falling Rain winning the Godolphin Mile (Group 2)
(Photo : Ahmend Jadallah - Footage : Dubai Racing Meydan)
$1,000,000 GODOLPHIN MILE (Group 2)
Meydan, All Weather, 1600m
30 March 2013
South African trainer Mike de Kock has won countless feature races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival by intuitively placing his horses in potentially winning positions. Some may have characterized the entry of South African-bred 3-year-old Soft Falling Rain (National Assembly) against his elders in Saturday’s $1,000,000 Godolphin Mile (Group 2) as something of an audacious move, given that there was an opportunity to run against his peers in the following race. But the Shadwell runner got things off to a flying start for the stable and overcame a difficult trip to maintain his undefeated record. Longshot Haatheq (Seeking the Gold) held for a Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum one-two, while Godolphin’s Moonwalk in Paris (Oratorio) ran on well from the tail to round out the minors.
Drawn to the far outside in 13, Soft Falling Rain raced in the second flight of horses as Group 1 Travers Stakes dead-heater, Alpha (Bernardini), dictated terms over a track playing exceedingly slow in the heat of the late afternoon. The chalk was never able to get in on the track as Haatheq surged past the pacesetter to lead with 400 meters to race. But Soft Falling Rain responded very gamely to the urgings of jockey Paul Hanagan and worked his way past Haatheq close to home for a richly deserved victory.
“They went so quick from the start that I had to go wider than I wanted all the way,” Hanagan related. “I wondered whether he could come forward when we reached the straight but this horse is so genuine. It was an amazing race and great thrill. It ranks with my best ever wins. Before this my best was on Mayson in the July Cup last year.”
De Kock was hugely impressed after the race and said: “This was an unbelievably good win by Soft Falling Rain. It’s one of the most impressive wins I’ve seen by a horse in my life!” He added: ” haven’t seen too many horses under pressure that far out and still find something at the finish. It just shows how good a horse he is. Turning for home I would have been happy to be second but the horse dug in and fought all the way. I thought he could win but in the race, I was worried. I knew he’d won when he crossed the line. He will go to Royal Ascot and we will enter him in the one-mile Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and the six-furlong Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.”
Soft Falling Rain is now unbeaten in six starts.
Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News and Mike de Kock Racing
Imbongi - South Africa
(Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club)
US$1,000,000 GODOLPHIN MILE (Group 2)
Meydan, All-Weather, 1600m
26 March 2011
Ali Rashid Al Raihe
PREMIO LOCO (USA)
AS DE TREBOL (USA)
RED JAZZ (USA)
CROWDED HOUSE (GB)
ZAFEEN SPEED (GB)
Musabah Al Muhairi
MAKE MUSIC FOR ME (USA)
I WANT REVENGE (USA)
Richard Dutrow Jr
HEARTS OF FIRE (GB)
Ibrahim Al Malki
Mahmoud Al Zarooni
Saeed bin Suroor
LE DRAKKAR (AUS)
Abdulla bin Huzaim