Nicci Garner:The Mike de Kock stable has more than doubled its tally of winners for the season in the last 12 days and their success included four promising winners at the Vaal Classic meeting on Saturday.
Three months into the term, on 31 October, De Kock’s yard had won 25 races but they have averaged over one a day since then. At this time last year they had saddled 25 winners in total from 1 August to 12 November.
Two winners on Tuesday last week were followed by another two at the Victory Moon Stakes meeting at Turffontein on Thursday – Naafer and Nother Russia.
Naafer beat two Sean Tarry-trained hotshots, Bull Valley, who came from the back under an easy ride, and Legal Eagle, who is being prepared for the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and would have found the distance short.
Assistant trainer Mathew de Kock said yesterday: “It was a big win for Naafer. He is a smart colt. He’ll now go for the Merchants (1160m) on Summer Cup Day.”
Nother Russia ran around a bit towards the end of the 1400m Pinnacle Stakes for fillies and mares but never came off the bit to beat Redberry Lane by 0.50 lengths. She holds a dual entry on Summer Cup Day – for the big one where she is fairly high up in the betting and for the Ipi Tombe Challenge over 1600m.
“We haven’t decided yet, but we’re leaning towards the Ipi Tombe Challenge because she is not 100% fit and ready for the Summer Cup,” said De Kock. “The 2000m at Turffontein is a stiff test and you have to be ready because it’s a hard race. We’ll see how much she comes on from last Thursday’s run.”
Nother Russia will then be heading to Cape Town with her sights on either the L’Ormarins Queens Plate or the Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes “and then, if things go well, the Sun Met”.
If Nother Russia does not run in the Summer Cup, De Kock will still be represented by Orchid Island, who ran fourth behind Girl On The Run in the Victory Moon Stakes last Thursday. Said De Kock: “I was happy with the run. The horses around her had all run already this season. She’ll improve.”
Of all their winners on Saturday, De Kock was most impressed with Alshibaa in Race 5. The Street Cry gelding had no chance halfway down the straight, but suddenly rocketed forward to take over 100m out and win going away by 1.75 lengths from Polar Ice.
“It was probably not the strongest of fields, but he won well. He’s in the Dingaans and drew well, so we’ll take our chances there. That one looks sure to be a strong field, but the only way we’ll find out how good our horses are is if they run.”
Saturday’s four-timer kicked off in the very first race with first-timer Dhabyaan justifying favouritism to beat King Of The Delta over 1200m.
“He’s a nice sort, but he’s still a big baby and he wants a lot further,” said De Kock. “As for his programme, we’ll see what rating the handicappers give him for that run and go from there.”
In Race 3 Kremlin Judgement, “a nice-actioned horse who does everything right” justified favouritism when taking over about 300m out and striding away to beat pacemaker Red Revolution.
Their 2000m Race 4 winner Big Parade “looks like he’ll be a nice stayer when he’s older and stronger”, said De Kock. “It’s nice for Costa and Billy-Ann Livanos, who won the Summer Cup with Flirtation in 2010.”
Dhabyaan was ridden by JP van der Merwe, while the others were all ridden by Callan Murray.