Arlington Park, Newbury and Turffontein
South African Champion trainer, Mike de Kock, executed a precise three pronged international attack spanning three continents Saturday, ending with a victory and two seconds. De Kock has gone where no man before him has dared and continues to raise the bar for his contemporaries.
The Apache stepped out in Chicago, USA for the Group 1 Arlington Million, whilst the unbeaten Soft Falling Rain went to post at Newbury, UK for the Group 2 Betfred Hungerford Stakes. First timer Siddharth stepped out at Turffontein.
Soft Falling Rain ended up losing his unbeaten record in the Hungerford Stakes going down to the John Gosden-trained Gregorian.
Owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Soft Falling Rain was having his first start in 140 days and was sent off as the 9-4 favourite. Not that De Kock was too disappointed. He told At The Races on Sunday: “He gave 2lb to the winner and coming from the Southern Hemisphere was disadvantaged to the tune of 2lb to 3lb, which was not factored into the weight he carried. I thought it was a quality field and there was enough form in Group 1s to say it was a really good field. Like most of our horses with the way we prepare them he will come on with racing.”
De Kock has Soft Falling Rain entered in the Betfred Sprint Cup, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Qipco Champion Stakes.
The Apache, impressive in the Arlington Million, passed the post first but lost it in the boardroom.
A typically sporting De Kock, who watched the race on the internet in the UK, said: “When I saw the head-on replay of the finish, I knew we were in trouble. There was one movement off the fence and then he kept on going, with his stick in the left hand, it definitely unbalances the other horse. If I had been in their position and got beaten, I’d have felt aggrieved. That’s the game.”
The trainer said he would now aim The Apache at the Qipco Champion Stakes on 19 October.
Ironically it was the lowest profiled of his three runners that was to win. Siddharth made his debut in the final race at Turffontein, a Maiden Plate run over 1400m, and registered a promising victory under Marco Van Rensburg after being backed.