MATT DE KOCK
Mike de Kock’s staff at Randjesfontein call Mathew de Kock, “Little Big Boss” – a young man who rose swiftly to the challenge in an internationally renowned stable.
Matt has never lived in his accomplished father’s shadow.
Allowed to grow and lead, the now 28-year-old has impressed all in the South African racing industry with his natural horsemanship, a maturity beyond his years and his refreshing and professional handling of the racing media.
Matt and his girlfriend Monique Mansour (long-time assistant to Sean Tarry and sister to jockey Donovan Mansour), are departing for Australia next week to start a new chapter in their lives.
While this is a big blow to SA racing and we can labour on bitterly about the shocking things in this troubled land that continue to drive talented people away, that won’t serve much of a purpose. We support Mat and Monique in this exciting venture at the right time of their careers.
Thankfully, modern technology will make it possible to track their moves. A few days before their plane jets out and on the eve of his last official race meeting in South Africa, we caught up with Mat for ‘Seven Questions’.
TT: We were quietly hoping this day would never come, but here we are. When are you leaving and will this be a permanent move?
M: Monique and I will be leaving South Africa on Monday. We’ll be living and working at Cranbourne in Australia. It’s a small town about 40km south-east of Melbourne in the state of Victoria. There is a training centre and plenty of horse people, though it’s not an exclusive racing town like Newmarket in the UK. And yes, we are leaving with the intent of eventually settling in Australia permanently.
TT: Are you starting a satellite yard for your dad?
M: No, satellite stables are not allowed under Australian rules. When you train in Australia, you can only hold one licence. We will be joining Mr Robbie Griffiths, who trains at the Cranbourne Racing Centre.
TT: Tell us about Robbie Griffiths?
M: Mr Griffiths is a regular Top 10 trainer in Victoria. He is a former jockey who rode for Australia’s best trainers like Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and Lee Freedman. He has been training since 1991 and is a top horseman.
TT: So what, then, is your plan of action?
M: We’re taking all of this step by step. We’d like to learn as much as we can about Australian racing, the administration, the tracks, the horses, trainers, jockeys and fans. We have time and we’ll be doing things thoroughly, learning about their industry and its workings from an experienced and wellrespected Australian trainer and his team, something we are very grateful for. When we are 100% happy and everything has settled, we will consider opening up a yard of our own. That could take any length time, but as I said, we’ll be there to learn and gain as much hands-on experience as we possibly can.
TT: When you are ready, will your dad be joining you?
M: There are things that will have to unfold in time and this is one of them. When the time is right I will probably take out my own trainer’s licence and start building afresh. But the Mdk team will always remain a team. What we do we will be doing as a unit, no matter whose name is in the race program.
TT: Will you be looking at getting support from South African owners?
M: Again, we won’t be jumping the gun. At some time in the future, we’d love to get South African blood into a new operation – patrons and horses – but that is not something we are thinking about now and, of course, the existing protocols prevent us from planning. The lifting of the restrictions will change things, but there are other things we will be concentrating on first.
TT: Emotionally, this must be a trying time for you?
M: Yes, this is not an easy thing to do. For a while now our emotions have fluctuated between highs and lows. I love South African racing, the people and the horses. We will miss our friends and family dearly. I think, most of all, I will miss our racing team at Randjesfontein, the environment and the great team spirit. On the other side of the coin, this is a fantastic opportunity, one we have to pursue. We are looking forward to exploring Australia. I have travelled a lot, I started as a youngster, but I am still nervous about this venture. Nervous, but perhaps even more excited than nervous.