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Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum


mike de kock, kevin shea and sheikh mohammed
mike de kock, kevin shea and sheikh mohammed

Sheikh Mohammed, Mike de Kock and Kevin Shea

(Photo : Mike de Kock Racing)

MIKE DE KOCK and KEVIN SHEA go Falcon Hunting

We’re lucky at Summerhill. Our blog attracts attention from all the corners of the world, and we regularly get remarks flowing from recent postings. This one though, goes back an awful long way to a report on a visit to the desert by Mike de Kock et al, who went falcon hunting with the eldest son of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, a long-time client of the farm.

We’re not into hunting at Summerhill, but we’re always intrigued by what gets people up in the mornings. This one comes in the form of a job application :

Assalam-o-Alekum !

I Hearbally request to you that i eager to work in arabic animal form. I have lots of information for this. please give me a single chance for showing my self. I have read more about Shiek Mohammad Forms and hunting activty, Now i become very eager to employment in his regards. I have also expirience about “FALCON”.

So please reply this request.

Naeem Essa


Our reply :

Good Morning Naim

Many thanks for your interesting note, and also for your interest in our business. Unfortunately, at the moment, we have a serious unemployment problem in our area, and so every effort is being made to employ local people wherever we can, which means we’re unable to consider applications from abroad.

However, since you seem to be well qualified in falcon hunting, perhaps you should address a note to those who pursue it. We don’t hunt with falcons here; it’s largely people in the Middle East who do so.

We wish you well in your efforts.



High Praise for IMBONGI

bayete imbongi
bayete imbongi

Please click above to watch video

(Footage : YouTube)

“Let’s all sing Imbongi’s praises”

Extract from The Times

The GeeGees : Mike Moon

It’s ironic that a horse called Imbongi has been one of the least ballyhooed of South Africa’s growing band of equine exports – especially as he’s quite possibly the best of them.

An imbongi is, of course, a praise singer in Zulu and Xhosa culture – the guy in traditional gear who heralds the arrival of an important leader on grand occasions. Whistling and waving sticks, the imbongi yells out the achievements and virtues of the approaching big cheese.

We used to love it so when President Mandela’s imbongi did his thing, affirming our devotion to Madiba and his deeds.

Praise singing of our high and mighty has lost its spark. Perhaps it’s due to post-’94-miracle cynicism. It can’t be that we don’t believe the big shots have any virtues. Surely not.

The most excitement generated by an Imbongi of late has been among the British racing establishment.

The horse from Mooi River has only raced twice in the UK, yet this week the respected Timeform agency gave him a lofty rating of 121.

This places Imbongi among the top half percent of horses racing in the world today.

There’s talk of jetting him across the Atlantic to Chicago in a fortnight’s time for a shot at the prestigious Arlington Million.

This is far removed from the sorry sight at a thoroughbred auction in Germiston 18 months ago when the young Imbongi left the sale ring in ignominy after failing to attract a bid from the assembled clever clogs of South African racing.

He went home to Summerhill Stud in the Midlands where champion breeder Mick Goss – a truly clever chap who’d loved the colt from day one – put him into race training in hope that he’d eventually make it to a track.

Summerhill had thought out Imbongi’s pedigree carefully, mating sire Russian Revival (Timeform 125) to a daughter of another world-class racehorse, Foveros (120). For lineage anoraks: the Northern Dancer (Russian Revival’s grandsire) cross with a Teddy line mare had produced the legendary Nijinsky.

Imbongi is proof that sometimes a plan comes together.

Racing doyen Ronnie Napiervisited Summerhill, took a shine to Imbongi, and formed an owner partnership with the stud farm and a few other friends.

It was all the encouragement Imbongi needed. Winning both the Gauteng Guineas and KZN Guineas, and whipping Pocket Power in the Drill Hall Stakes, he became the best middle distance horse of his generation.

Sheikh Khalifa of Dubai bought in and it was off overseas.

After scooting to victory in a grade 3 event at Newmarket, Imbongi ran a close-up third in a grade 2 at Ascot. The latter race was described as the best mile form in the world this year and Timeform passed judgment.

The chestnut with the handsome head is finally being taken seriously. Time to start yelling.

Aforementioned Pocket Power might also race overseas soon. But first the great one has a date at Clairwood in the Champions Cup today – and will surely atone for his fiasco of a run in the Durban July.

john bovington memorial criterion stakes video
john bovington memorial criterion stakes video
ascot summer mile audio
ascot summer mile audio

Click above to experience Imbongi’s last two runs in the

John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes and Ascot Summer Mile Stakes



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.


The Rags to Riches story of IMBONGI

ready to run

Emperors Palace Ready to Run graduate, unwanted in the sales ring, turned adversity to advantage when he won the first of two Guineas in May last year. His rags to riches story saw him beat the pants off multiple Group One winner, Russian Sage, in the KZN version of the Guineas. He then took matters to another level, when he beat Horse of the Year, Pocket Power, and three other Group One winners with consummate ease, in the Drill Hall Stakes.





John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes Gr3

(Photo : Daily Mail)

“IMBONGI takes England’s biggest race of the weekend”

All week, Mike de Kock has been tipping Imbongi as the horse who thrived most since his string arrived in the UK. When Imbongi had done and dusted the Criterion Stakes (Gr.3) in facile fashion his pilot, Kevin Shea dismounted with the announcement that this was just the beginning. He felt the horse could step up from here, and while he was non-committal about where he would go in the next month or so, knowing Mike de Kock, he’s likely to make the progression to Group 2 level, and then cast his eyes towards something like the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr.1) at Ascot in September.

Like so many others in Mike de Kock’s yard, Imbongi really battled in Dubai, and was nowhere near his best, but Saturday he put all the ghosts away, and his form at last, approached the spectacles South African racegoers became accustomed to in his dual Guineas sagas and his demolition of four Grade One winners, including Horse of The Year, Pocket Power, in last year’s Drill Hall Stakes (Gr.2).

Don’t forget though, this was a horse that was turned out of the ring unsold at the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, and it took a man of Ronnie Napier’s decades in racing to recognise his potential on a frosty Saturday morning at the Summerhill gallops. So much for the unwanted child!

P.S. There was a double celebration in this one. Imbongi’s was the first winner from Sheikh Mohammed’s newly acquired Abingden Place yard, Mike’s English headquarters. If it weren’t for the Sheikh’s enterprise and his love of the game, we’d not’ve been in England.

john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link
john bovington memorial criterion stakes video link

Watch the John Bovington Memorial Criterion Stakes (Gr3)

THE CHAMPIONS MILE (Gr.1) : Sunday dawns in Hong Kong

Imbongi 23 April 2009
(Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club)

You can go into any worthwhile website on racing anywhere in the world right now, and you can pick up news of this weekend’s big events in Hong Kong, including the Champions Mile. However, the one thing you won’t get is a statement from the horse’s mouth, so we thought we’d bring you news of our most recent bulletin from Mike de Kock, who sends our home-bred, Imbongi to post on Sunday.

Anyone hoping to make any sort of impression in this race would have to take history into account in their calculations, knowing that in all its time, the Hong Kong Champions Mile has yet to witness a placed runner among its foreign raiders, and that last year’s spectacular hero, Good Ba Ba reached the post in an amazing 1min 31.3 secs, and you know what you’re up against.

However, Mike de Kock is of the firm view that Imbongi is a real contender, provided he is over the troubles which confronted so many of the Mike de Kock stable in Dubai over the World Cup, and if Imbongi can get back to a modicum of the form which carried him to stardom in two Guineas and a triumph over Horse Of The Year, Pocket Power ans well as four other Grade One winners in the Drill Hall last season. Mike tells us though, that Imbongi managed an official “bullet” 21,5 secs for the last 400m of his final workout on Tuesday. If that’s not notice he’s ready to run for his life, tell us what is?

Keep your heads down, there could be an explosion Sunday morning (9:55 am our time).

Kiaran McLaughlin scoops Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil

kiaran mclaughlan (michael nefdt)

Kiaran McLaughlan
(Photos : DRC/Nafips)


Asiatic Boy and Honour Devil are likely heading for the tracks of the US where they will join the stable of Kiaran McLaughlin.


Reigning champion trainer of South Africa, Mike de Kock, saddled both of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s runners to victories in the UAE Derby, with the former taking the event in 2007 and the latter winning a year ago.

Asiatic Boy is coming off a disappointing result in the Dubai World Cup (Gr1), where he finished back in 12th, from the field of 14.

“We will assess options for Asiatic Boy when we see how he has come out of Saturday, as he had a hard race,” Mike de Kock told The Racing Post from Dubai, adding that Asiatic Boy returned from the race coughing. “However, it is quite likely he (Asiatic Boy) and Honour Devil will go to Kiaran McLaughlin for the New York summer season. Asiatic Boy will probably then retire to Argentina and Honour Devil come back, hopefully for a World Cup bid. Saturday was disappointing. Asiatic Boy had won well on Super Thursday, but a slow start and traffic problems in the World Cup soon had him in trouble. He is obviously far better than that and came back coughing and just was not able to show how good he is, which is a shame. But that’s racing, and he will have another big day, I am sure, in America.”


sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoumSheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
(Summerhill Sires Brochure 2008/2009)

Those that know him, will have recognised that at the end of last season, IMBONGI was just not himself. With two Guineas under his belt, and then two successive defeats by Horse of the Year, POCKET POWER, his last run in the Champion’s Cup lacked his usual lustre, yet if you were present at the ringside during the preliminaries you would have seen one “dog-tired” horse.

Last evening, before an international audience of television viewers, we saw a rejuvenated, bigger and more mature IMBONGI, taking on an international field at a distance short of his best.

Drawn on the rank outside of a quality field, his pilot Kevin Shea had no choice but to drop him out, in his attempt to spare a horse who hadn’t run since the end of last season.

An electrifying stretch run, unleashed with barely 300 metres to go, and unaided by a single crack of the whip until well inside the last furlong, brought him to within a nose of multiple Graded Stakes winner, HATTA FORT, who paraded as the odds-on favourite in Godolphin’s fabled blue silks.

The portents are good, and IMBONGI’s new owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, will have been thrilled with his new charge’s bold showing. Just as thrilled though, were the old firm of Mike de Kock, Ronnie Napier, Owen Leibbrandt, Michael Fleischer and Barry Clements, who landed one of history’s great bargains, when they bought into him one misty Saturday morning on the Summerhill gallops.

Goes to show, you must always turn up in life – you’ll never know the rainbow’s end otherwise.


An insight into Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum

sheikh mohammed bin khalifa al maktoum

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum
(Nicholas Goss)

charl pretoriusCharl Pretorius FreeracerOn Sunday 27 April, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum became the first member of the Maktoum family to attend a race meeting on Hong Kong soil. He flew in with his entourage to see his charge Archipenko go to post in the QEII Cup at Sha Tin racecourse.

Punters on the island failed to see this as a good omen for the Mike de Kock-trained runner - he was easy to back at around 14-1. Barring Terry Spargo, the pre-race presentation team didn’t give Archipenko a top-three chance, ignoring Mike De Kock and jockey Kevin Shea’s widely publicised confidence. Of course, he won.

The racing world will sit up and take notice. De Kock and his Dubai-based patron’s achievements at the 2008 Dubai Racing Carnival signalled the turning of the ignition of what could well become the luxury vehicle of world thoroughbred racing.

In Hong Kong, De Kock’s foot stepped on the pedal. Now, the conquering of the English racing world awaits and not many will bet against the high-riding South African trainer and Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum speeding away from the opposition like a sports-model Bentley.

The image of a smart white Bentley flared up when I was asked to describe my few encounters with Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa and to interview him for Racing Express.

Two incidents sprung to mind.

The first: In his Dubai Palace, packed with many important invitees sitting in a large circle around his reception hall, Sheikh Mohammed stands up when his eight-year-old grandson joins the guests. His associates and guests rise as one, following suit. The boy touches noses with his grandfather, then steps around the room to greet the others with a handshake. Then, we all sit down. While this might be an Arabic tradition, the Sheikh performs the ceremony with a touching humbleness.

The second: After a lavish Palace dinner, around 9pm, everyone walks up the road leading from the Palace to the Sheikh’s stable complex. The Sheikh himself is driven there in his Bentley. He shows us his newly built stables, every one about as large as a one-bedroom apartment. When the group disbands to go home, De Kock paces back down the road to the Palace parking lot. He is some way ahead of us. The Sheikh’s magnificent car stops next to him and the window rolls down. He offers Mike a lift.

“No, thank you Sheikh Mohammed, I need the exercise,’’ quips Mike. At this point, Sheikh Mohammed opens his door, steps out and says: “I will walk with you!’’ He takes his walking stick and together they strut down the dimly lit road, talking away, with the Bentley in slow pursuit. Looking at them from behind, in deep conversation, almost arm-in-arm, one realises that this is a partnership built to last.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum is a calm, humble and soft-spoken man - one wouldn’t say that he is the highly energetic type who actually cycles and spear-fishes in his spare time. In the often brash boldness of Mike he has found a somewhat contrasting personality that is nonetheless one that enchants him, one he can perfectly relate to.

Mike represents Sheikh Mohammed’s racing vision for the future and they get on like a house on fire. “He is a teacher, he is a superstar, perhaps the best in the world,’’ says the Sheikh when we sit down to tea in his office in downtown Dubai.

In racing circles Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum is sometimes confused with his first cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the owner of the all-blue Godolphin thoroughbred empire.

But Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa (son of Khalifa) is the Minister of Land Affairs in Dubai, a position he has proudly held since 1971. His cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (son of Rashid) is the Ruler of Dubai and also Prime Minister of the seven-state UAE.

They grew up together, went to school together and then received tertiary education in England at the Bell School of Languages, being taught English as a first language. When Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa came back to Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid went to military school in the UK to further his interests in the military.

Time for a question: How much has he, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, had to do with the emergence of Dubai as one of the most attractive tourist destinations for South Africans and other international travellers?

He stresses: “The Dubai that you see today is the result of the vision of Sheikh Rashid, an extraordinary man whose ideas were and are being implemented by his son, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. He is a similarly gifted visionary. He was his father’s eager student, his father’s beautiful vision for the UAE lives on in him.

“As for me, I was appointed by Sheikh Rashid 37 years ago. He gave me his trust and my department has carried out his vision for Dubai, we have followed his instructions implicitly.’’

He adds: “The great city you see today, in 2008, will look remarkably different if you were to come back in 2015. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has created this sprawling metropolis, but I assure you this is only the beginning!

“Dubai and the UAE are not dependent on oil at all, that is the wrong perception. Our income now and in the future lies in tourism and property development. Dubai will not stop growing. It is amazing what today’s architects can do and they can do it anywhere they want, regardless of the quality of the soil, which incidentally is better away from Dubai and deep into the desert than in Dubai itself.

“We have some challenges, like roads and transport, but the solutions are a part of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s master plan. He has created this to invest in our people, to empower them. He already knows the way ahead, but he is not a one-man show. He asks for expert advice, everyone works closely together.’’

The United Arab Emirates, with Dubai as its flagship, is a world leader in the fields of tourism, architecture, construction and finance.

The Department of Land Affairs conducts business to the value of an astonishing AED 3 billion and more per month (the equivalent of about R6 billion). Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa and his staff are charged with administrating, streamlining and regulating the incredible demand for property and the awarding of business rights to foreign investors.

He explains: “Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has instituted a new law to protect local and foreign investors. Foreigners are allowed to develop land here, but they are required to fully complete their existing projects before they can go on to the next ones. This way all their financial commitments are concluded without ramifications and other investors get a chance to enter the market.’’

Dubai is proud model of the peaceful blending of Arabic and Western cultures, something that seems impossible in other parts of the world. My next question is obvious: How did they achieve this?

“We have stable traditional rule in Dubai with no political upheaval, and we achieve harmony by making people feel welcome in our land. How do you feel when you come here? You feel good, you are respected and you respect us in return. We are a peaceful people and we are sharing our vision of the world with everyone.’’

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa’s love for thoroughbreds grew only in the last decade. He formerly trained and rode Arabian horses in endurance races of up to 120km, which were completed in a day. He also kept and trained camels along with the other Sheikhs.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Sheikh Hamdan and Sheikh Maktoum were the horse lovers since their early years. I liked the marathon horses. It was only when Sheikh Hamdan gave me four horses as gifts back in 1996 that my interest was kindled. One of them was Map of Stars, who won first time out, and we were delighted. But they were later sold.’’

In 2000, when Sheikh Mohammed and his right-hand man Mohammed Khaleel drove by the Dubai Polo Grounds on the way to his Palace, they decided to stop over and soon became involved in polo; the Sheikh played some polo himself. This led to another venture into thoroughbred racing and he invested in Sir Clive, by Bigstone, bought in New Zealand before the NZ Derby and placed second in the that race and the AJC Derby.

It is here that the picture started to unfold. Mohammed Khaleel began a study of thoroughbred pedigrees and the Sheikh expanded his Australian operation with more racehorses under the banner of “Al Adiyaat’’.

The growing popularity of the Dubai Racing Carnival on his doorstep prompted Sheikh Mohammed in 2006 to expand his operation to Dubai and Mike de Kock was recommended as a trainer to support him. They met with Mike and Mohammed Khaleel visited South African on the Sheikh’s behalf and liked it.

Mike suggested Candy Critic as a first purchase; the deal was secured just a few weeks before the SA Oaks, a race which the daughter of Candy Stripes won in good style. And so Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa’s first SA runner was a winner, like his first Dubai runner 10 years earlier.

Late in 2006 Sheikh Mohammed sent Mike to Argentina to buy rising star Husson, by Hussonet, but the price changed a few times and the deal fell through. On the same trip Mike, Jehan Malherbe and John McVeigh found Asiatic Boy, a one-time winner who had finished second to Husson, and secured him at a better price. Asiatic Boy’s sparkling performances since then include the 2007 Dubai Triple Crown and a second in the 2008 Dubai World Cup.

Out of the blue, in 2008, came another one-time winner in Honour Devil, who swept away the opposition in Dubai and won the Grade 2 UAE Derby, and Archipenko, from relative obscurity in the UK to glory in Dubai and Hong Kong.

With three aces in his hand of cards, Sheikh Mohammed is keen on making a huge success of Mike’s English raid this year and says he will support his trainer with whatever is required, including a stable complex with its own track and first-class facilities.

“It is the aim of Al Adiyaat to buy horses anywhere in the world, it doesn’t matter where. If Mike finds the right ones, we will buy them as we’d like to win big races all over the world, in the UK, the USA, Australia and South Africa!’’

Does that mean that Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum will be launching a challenge on the world stage to Godolphin? Does he wish to be as big and prominent as Godolphin?

He states: “I can be that, if God so wishes, but it is not in my hands at all. If things go that way, I will be happy. It is in the hands of God. But there will never be a contest for glory or world racing domination between myself and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. We are healthy competitors on the racetrack, like we were years ago when we rode against each other in endurance races. But that is where it stops.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid does everything to the glory of God and Dubai and so do I. If he were to come to me tomorrow and asked if he could have my horse Honour Devil for Godolphin, I will oblige, I will give the horse to him. All to the glory of Dubai.’’