Jack Milner: The much-anticipated return to the track of Equus Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year Mustaaqeem happens at the Vaal on Thursday.
Mike de Kock has entered the Grade 1 SA Nursery winner to run in Race 5, a Progress Plate over 1200m. It will be 278 days since Mustaaqeem annihilated a strong field of juveniles to win the Nursery, making stablemate Naafer look quite ordinary as he could only finish four lengths back in second.
This son of Redoute’s Choice had knee surgery during his break and De Kock commented from Dubai on his website, mikedekockracing.com: “Mustaaqeem had a knee chip removed, it was a small chip and he has fully recovered. He is striding as well as ever.
“We’ve given Mustaaqeem some good work, he has galloped on sand and on grass, but we haven’t squeezed him hard. He is looking exceptionally well and has been enjoying his work. He’ll have a chance of making a winning comeback, but of course we can’t predict with utmost confidence how he will go.
“I think Mustaaqeem will see out 1400m, like his brother Rafeef. The Vaal race will show us if he still prefers sprinting and, if he does, we will probably aim him at a race like the Merchants in March and keep him down the straight. We’re looking forward to his return!”
Mustaaqeem has only raced twice, winning his maiden by 7.50 lengths and then that cruise in the Nursery. De Kock decided not to take his charge to Durban for the winter season and rather allow him time to mature.
He has a merit rating of 109 from his two starts and is by far the best handicapped runner in this field. Mustaaqeem is reunited with jockey Callan Murray who rode him in both of his starts.
While this is a Plate race and should favour the horses with the highest merit ratings, many of these runners are not currently running to their ratings. Therefore, the runner to follow Mustaaqeem home could be Gimmethenight, a winner of his only start. He won a very strong Maiden Plate on debut, easily beating some strongly fancies runners. He coasted home on that occasion and looks way above average.
Trainer Weiho Marwing has even been prepared to have his charge put up 0.5kg overweight in order to get his brother, Weichong, to ride the colt.