Oh, to have been a fly on the wall on the Thursday night flight that carried Joey Ramsden and Mike de Kock from Dubai to South Africa ahead of De Kock’s 50th birthday celebrations on Saturday.
Ramsden had just sent out Variety Club, South Africa’s two-time horse of the year, to an emphatic victory in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes.
De Kock celebrated his Wednesday milestone with a handicap double in the form of Sanshaawes and Vercingetorix and remains tied at the top of the Dubai World Cup Carnival trainers’ standings with Saeed bin Suroor on eight wins.
“I am quite keen on Meydan now,” Ramsden told The National from South Africa. “It was a fantastic night, and the way Variety Club did it was very satisfying. It may not have been the strongest race, but he had his opponents off the bridle from a way out. We’re having a party for Mike tomorrow.”
After Vercingetorix beat Code Of Honour in the Ford Taurus Trophy under Christophe Soumillon, the Carnival’s most successful international trainer said that the winner would aim for the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night.
Although the US$5 million (Dh18.36m) turf race on March 29 is the main target and logical aim for Variety Club, the Dubai World Cup must now enter calculations after his charge showed a thorough liking for Tapeta.
Super Saturday is in three weeks and the Group 1 Jebel Hatta, over 1,800 metres on turf, or the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, on Tapeta over 2,000m, are the choices.
Sajjhaa last season and Ibi Tombe in 2003 won the Jebel Hatta en route to victory in the Dubai Duty Free, while the Al Maktoum Challenge has been used by Godolphin to prepare Dubai World Cup winners Electrocutionist in 2006, Street Cry in 2002 and Dubai Millennium in 2000.
Of course, Ramsden could revert on Super Saturday to turf, on which Variety Club has finished out of the frame only once, and then decide to shoot for the most valuable prize in racing.
“He will go for Super Saturday now, but which race we still do not yet know. After last night, we will have to have a rethink,” he said.
“It makes sense to look at the two races for Super Saturday and try for the weaker one with the intention of going to World Cup night off the back to two performances that did not stretch him.
“Ultimately, it is my decision, although of course we will have to have a long chat with the owners and another with Mike.”
De Kock has four declared in the Longines Conquest Classic, the feature 1,200m handicap on turf at Meydan on Saturday.
“We took Lehaaf to Jebel Ali hoping for a big run to boost his rating and try to get him in a valuable handicap in the Dubai World Cup Carnival,” De Kock said. “It did not work out, so we will have another go here because he showed on his first Meydan run he can be very competitive at the Carnival.
“Final Button is certainly capable of a big run at this level and stays 1,600m well. Red Duke and Alhebayeb need to bounce back to their best juvenile form, but both are fit and well.”
Al Ain meeting called off
The second meeting of the meeting of the season at Al Ain was cancelled on Friday by the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) as a precautionary measure after some horses tested positive for strangles, a highly contagious infection of the respiratory tract.
The ERA said in a statement that 13 recent cases had been identified in laboratory tests following the recent President of the UAE Show Jumping Cup in Al Ain
“With such number of infected cases being identified in the show jumping community and the Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club having just hosted a show jumping event, cancellation of this race date was deemed to be the appropriate action to eliminate any chance of this contagious disease spreading to the flat racing industry,” the statement read.
The cancellation is not expected to affect any other meetings.