DUBAI // Considering he is the most successful international trainer in the history of Dubai World Cup night, Mike de Kock has kept a low profile this week.
Instead of appearing on the main track at Meydan Racecourse, the South African maestro has been working his horses on the training track, away from the curious onlookers.
Yet with 10 runners on the card on Saturday it is certain that De Kock will have a significant part to play as the action unfolds on the richest night of horse racing.
De Kock said his season has gone a little better than expected. He captured a Group 1 with his World Cup hope Master Of Hounds, a Group 2 and Group 3 with the Dubai Duty Free contender Musir, and Group 2s with the Sheema Classic filly Mahbooba and the Gold Cup runner Viscount Nelson.
But there have also been disappointments. Musir failed to strike in his most recent run after being given a small break and De Kock's former great World Cup hope, Bold Silvano, could not live up to expectations.
"It's a season that has had its ups and downs," De Kock said from his yard on Friday. "Some horses have come better than I thought, some have disappointed."
Bold Silvano can definitely be put into the latter category. Installed as favourite last year, he was forced to miss the World Cup due to injury. This year, after fighting back to fitness, he has had to pass up the big race because his performances could not convince De Kock he warranted a run.
Instead he has been switched to turf and is one of two De Kock horses to contest one of the two Group 1 turf races on Saturday night, the US$5 million (Dh18.4m) Sheema Classic over 2,410m.
"It's not been an ideal prep and I really hate it when you are not sure about the horse," De Kock said.
"I wasn't displeased with his fifth in the Firebreak on comeback, but then he got his tongue over the bit in the Maktoum Challenge and his lungs were full of Tapeta and he has been on antibiotics."
Stablemate Mahbooba, who runs in the same race, is flying.
"She has beaten the colts in Newmarket over a mile and a half," said the trainer.
"She had a little bit of a setback with a cough and had a week off but she was very fit at that time and I don't think it's a factor.
"She's flying and should run a good race."
The diminutive Lucky Chappy should not be judged on appearances according to the handler Graham Motion. "It's difficult against the southern hemisphere horses, and he's pretty uninspiring to watch in the morning, but he's a tough little guy. He hasn't done too much wrong to be honest," Motion said. In tonight's $2 million race, Lucky Chappy takes on Mike De Kock's fancied Al Bastakiya victor Mickdaam and three Godolphin contenders in 2,000 Guineas winner, Kinglet, UAE Oaks star Falls Of Lora and Grade 1 winner, Wrote. De Kock is confident Mickdaam can put in a good effort, although he concedes that the colt must find a couple of lengths if he is to win. "He is an improving horse, but to look at him you would say he is still immature," said De Kock, who saddles nine other runners tonight. "So he's a progressive horse. If he's to win this he's got to improve by a length or two. There are some very good horses in this race, including Wrote and Balada Sale."
Dubai Gold Cup
Mikhail Glinka has competed most of his training for the longest race on World Cup day on the treadmill. The Herman Brown-trained stayer has not stepped on the track, other than to race, since he finished second to Simon De Montfort early this month. Since that outing he won the Super Saturday Dubai City of Gold stayer's race to set him up for his World Cup night challenge, where he will face the Godolphin pair Fox Hunt and Opinion Poll. Brown also saddles Bronze Cannon in the US$1 million (Dh3.67m) race.
Jeremy Noseda, trainer of Western Aristocrat, has said that if his horse handles the track, he should be in contention for the $1m race. The Grade 1 winner, whose last victory came on turf, lapped the tapeta at a steady pace after having completed his prep in England before his trip. "We don't know whether he will handle the track but if he runs his race he has got to be in contention," Noseda said.
Al Quoz Sprint
Eagle Regiment, the sprint runner from Manfred Man's yard, was nursing a minor injury yesterday morning although his trainer said he would still run. "He's feeling better and better. He worked well today; it was good for him because he's usually lazy in the morning," Man said. "He is back to his best racing body weight and he will run well. His leg is not perfect, not 100 per cent, but that does not stop him running to his very best and his very best is very good." Also in the Al Quoz, Hayley Turner could become the first woman to win a race on World Cup night. Turner is aboard the Michael Bell-trained Group 1 winner, Margot Did. As soon as the gates fly back Turner will become the first woman to ride in a thoroughbred race on World Cup day. Katy Sweeney partnered an Arabian in the precursor to the Kahayla Classic in 1997.
Lucky Nine has lived up to his name after making a full recovery from a twisted shoe that left him a little lame on Monday. His trainer, Caspar Fownes, was concerned that the horse would not be able to take up his place in the $2m sprint, but "he's running," Fownes said. "He was only one-10th lame, and he's all clear now. He will race in glue-on shoes and I feel he will race really well, even if he has a bad gate in 12. The pace will be on and if he can position in midfield he could run home better than anything, as he's all heart."
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