JEBEL HATTA (Group 1)
Meydan, Turf, 1800m
9 March 2013
Top jockey Anthony Delpech will ride champion mare Igugu at work in Dubai on Thursday morning on the eve of this weekend’s Super Saturday meeting at Meydan. The 2012 J&B Met winner will run in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on Saturday.
An elated Delpech was thrilled to get the call up from the De Kock yard to ride his beloved champion after the mare finished third in the 1800m Group 2 Balanchine a fortnight ago. In her first run in 13 months, she was beaten 4.25 lengths in the hands of Christophe Soumillon by Godolphin’s smart filly Sajjhaaa.
Igugu’s failure to win after all the hype around her was a great disappointment to some of her followers, but De Kock did advise pre-race that she was short of her peak and that victory on her international debut would be no foregone conclusion.
For the stable, this was a more than satisfactory return for the mare, who had not seen a racetrack since winning the Grade 1 J&B Met in January last year and had to travel halfway around the world to reach her destination in the UAE.
De Kock said after the race: “Mr Mac is a real sport and took it on the chin. It was nice to have him here. He understands racing. Horses can’t go on winning and winning and Igugu faced a hard task on her return.”
Delpech jets out of South Africa on Wednesday evening and returns to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs. In what he termed a ‘special moment in my career’, he said that his wife Candice would be there to share it with him as his children had school commitments.
For some seasons the first choice rider for the De Kock yard in South Africa, he rode for former South African trainer Nick Robb in Dubai in 2000 and 2001 and won the joint richest turf race in the world, the Sheema Classic in 2007 for David Ferraris on one of his favourite horses, Vengeance Of Rain, while based in Hong Kong.
Vengeance Of Rain earned total stakes of over $7.9 million, which rated him in the top ten equine earners in the world. The Hong Kong Jockey Club made a website for Vengeance of Rain on 13 April 2007 and also published the special edition octopus card on 30 May 2007. The octopus card was used to celebrate Vengeance of Rain winning the Dubai Sheema Classic on 31 March 2007 and he was crowned the 2006-2007 Hong Kong Horse of the Year on 2 July 2007. Vengeance Of Rain broke the all-time Hong Kong prize money record set by Silent Witness.
Delpech, who has four rides on Super Saturday, brings plenty of international experience to the table and beyond Hong Kong and Dubai, has also ridden in Japan, Singapore and Mauritius. As a family man, he has settled in South Africa and generally does not travel with three young children in the house.
“I will be riding work on Thursday morning and I am due back in South Africa on Sunday afternoon. I am very excited and it is no secret that I have wanted to ride for Mike in Dubai for so long and it has finally come together,” he said with pride.
When taxed on how he felt, he said that he was obviously nervous:
“One wouldn’t be human not to feel nervous about the occasion. But I am also very excited. I know that the whole of SA will be watching and expecting Igugu to set the record straight. So that is a lot of pressure and expectation but she has shown how good she is and I know how good she is. She will be a fitter horse this time, and I just hope that everything goes well for us in the race.”
The 1800m race is one of two Group 1 races on the Super Saturday card, and a final stepping stone into the Dubai World Cup at end of March.
Mike de Kock won the Jebel Hatta last year in the same silks with the former Aiden O’Brien-trained Master Of Hounds, who led from start to finish to win the $300,000 event.