EMIRATES AIRLINE SUPER SATURDAY
9 March 2013
Star South African sprinter Shea Shea reigned victorious for Mike de Kock’s stable on Super Saturday at Meydan on an occasion at which members of trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s mighty Godolphin string overpowered the opposition in four of the seven thoroughbred contests, including two Group 1’s. Godolphin’s powerhouses ran gallant De Kock campaigners down in the dying stages of two races, preventing what would have been a massively successful evening for South Africa’s leading trainer.
All the same, Super Saturday proved to be another good advertisement for South Africa’s racing industry. In addition to winning the Listed Meydan Sprint over 1000m in track record time with the super impressive Shea Shea, Mike saddled three seconds and a fourth place.
The five-year-old gelding, Shea Shea, is owned in partnership by the Bidvest Group’s founder Brian Joffe and his long-time business associate Myron Berzack. They bought him for former South African Champion Trainer Geoff Woodruff, who prepared him for eight wins in his native country, including two Grade 1’s.
Shea Shea, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, won in spectacular fashion. He closely tracked the leaders approaching the 400m mark, then took command with a minimum of fuss. He won unextended, putting an easy 2.5-lengths between himself, the runner-up Sole Power and 14 other rivals. Among them were the individual winners of one Group 1 race, two Group 2’s, two Group 3’s and six Listed events. The manner of Shea Shea’s win was a huge thrill for his connections and supporters all over the world, but Mike enjoyed even better moments on the gelding’s return to the winner’s enclosure.
He said afterwards: “Brian and Geoff flew over to watch the race and to witness Brian’s pure joy was heartwarming. To see a man who conducts billion dollar deals almost every day of the week overcome with emotion and pride was hugely gratifying. Geoff, too, was proud as punch. He came along to support what was formerly his yard’s best horse and while it couldn’t have been easy, he participated with a touching enthusiasm. My sincere thanks go to Geoff and his team for teaching Shea Shea the ropes as a young horse, bringing him through the ranks so successfully and passing him on to us for his international exploits.”
Mike said that Shea Shea would be aimed at the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint ($1million) over the same course and distance on Dubai World Cup night, Saturday 13 March - the same race won by South African-bred JJ The Jet Plane in 2011. He added: “Shea Shea is a terrific horse. He just needed his Dubai debut on 31 January when he finished five lengths off the winner, gained experience on the track and wasn’t punished to finish closer. He’s made massive improvement since, working with him has been awesome!”
Mike was full of praise, too, for another South African-bred runner The Apache (Soumillon), who ran his heart out in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on turf, taking second to Godolphin’s formidable mare Sajjhaa, beaten only three-quarters of a length. He said: “The Apache is a much improved horse and he ran out of his skin. Coming to the 200m-mark he had the race by the scruff of the neck and we were getting ready to celebrate when Sajhaa came storming up to deny him a big win.” Champion mare Igugu was in the firing line at the business end, but ran out of steam again, confirming Mike’s pre-race assessment that she was still below best and that this run would serve to bring her to a peak.
Earlier in the day Zahee (Soumillon) had also fallen prey to a late-charging Godolphin representative, Secret Number, in the Listed Al Bastakiya over 1900m. “Zahee ran a cracker too. He gave his absolute best, but Godolphin’s battleship packed too much class. It’s hard to compete against them, sometimes discouraging when you have a good horse racing at his peak and doing everything right, only to be stuck away close to the line by yet another of Saeed bin Suroor’s high-class prospects. But we live to fight another day,” Mike mused.
Await The Dawn, strongly fancied to win the Group 2 Dubai City Of Gold over 2410m following a return to his capable best, surprisingly also found one to beat him. The conqueror came from Marco Botti’s stable in the form of seven-year-old entire Jakkalberry, lurking on the heels of Await The Dawn as they turned for home. The big stayer was pulled out for a run, kicked swiftly into stride and sneakily pinched three-quarters of a length on the well-backed favourite. “It slipped our minds that Marco Botti’s horse came into this race having won ten races, including a Group 1 early in his career. He’d also finished close up in third in last year’s Melbourne Cup. That was a brilliant run and indicative of his ability. He’s absolutely no slouch and produced his best on the night to beat us. I’m not going to use the pace or anything else as an excuse; we were beaten by a good horse. That’s just the way it happened. This is racing!”
Extract from Mike de Kock Racing