HAWWAAM WINS LAST YEAR'S RACE
Jack Milner: Mike de Kock is one of the key players in the feature races on Champions Day at Turffontein on Saturday.
The yard saddles just six runners but they include the top two in the betting for both the Grade 1 World Sports Betting Premiers Champions Challenge and the Grade 2 World Sports Betting SA Nursery, as well as the odds-on favourite in the Grade 1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes.
Hawwaam is all the rage to win the World Sports Betting Champions Challenge over 2000m and only those with Dutch courage would go against the son of Silvano notching up a double in this race.
Last year he beat stable companion Cascapedia by four lengths and this time Hawwaam has been priced up at around 1-6 to repeat that performance.
“He is fit and well and both Hawwaam and Soqrat have had the perfect preparations,” said De Kock on Thursday. “We know he can be highly strung so obviously, no crowds and noise at the racecourse will help Hawwaam.
“Even the fact we are using the back parade ring helps.”
Talking about Hawwaam’s temperament, De Kock observed that a lot of the incidents were not the fault of the horse. “In the Derby (when he got away from his handlers in the parade ring and bolted), had he gone to the start before everybody else he would have been fine, and in the Durban July it was a handling issue. He got hit on his mouth which is very sensitive.
“He gets a worse rap than he deserves.”
Whether he is just maturing or it was just the lack of crowds, Hawwaam was the perfect gentleman when he ran in the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes on 7 June. Callan Murray teamed up with him for the first time on that occasion and he is back aboard again.
Soqrat has to be considered the main danger. He is the best handicapped runner and is a very easy horse to train. He disappointed when sixth in the Horse Chestnut Stakes but De Kock pointed out: “He had just come back came from a six week break at the farm and needed the run.
“I’m expecting an improved performance on Saturday.”
Queen Supreme finished a 1.40-length second behind Hawwaam in the Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m and is quoted at 15-20 to win the HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes over the same course and distance. “That was a super run, probably better than expected,” said De Kock.
“I do think 1600m is her best distance, even though she ran well in the Summer Cup over 2000m. In that race she moved up and just didn’t go on with it.”
Mount Pleasant and Najem Suhail both won on debut and go into the into the World Sports Betting SA Nursery over 1160m as the respective favourite and second favourite. “They’re both above-average horses but they are also very close on ability.
“I think Mount Pleasant is looking for further whereas Najem Suhail is an out-and-out sprinter.”
While he feels it will be very close, De Kock did add that Murray had selected to ride Mount Pleasant.
His final runner on the card is Gin Fizz, who runs in Race 8, the Grade 2 World Sports Betting Camellia Stakes over 1160m. A disaster at the start was the reason for her poor last run. “She smashed the outside of the gate and knocked her tooth out so you can just ignore that,” explained De Kock.
“She’s a very capable filly, but she does have her issues.”