The most successful trainer since the inception of the Dubai International Racing Carnival in 2004, South African Mike de Kock enjoyed his most successful UAE campaign in 2008. His two World Cup night winners took his tally to 16 and 53 in total. With three winners on the board already this season, and a host of equine talent yet to be unleashed among his largest-ever team of 40, 2009 could be a stellar year for the champion trainer in his homeland. With a yard about to be purchased in the UK for him by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, it is an exciting time for De Kock and his globe-trotting team.
Sun Classique and Honour Devil won the Sheema Classic and the UAE Derby respectively on the big night last year while Asiatic Boy was second in the World Cup and Archipenko placed in the Dubai Duty Free. The last three named all carry the now world-famous yellow colours of Sheikh Mohammed, which were carried to victory in the UK by both Archipenko and Eagle Mountain, who both won Group 1 races in Hong Kong and were narrowly denied when travelling to America.
However, De Kock's name is already firmly in the the USA history books as he was the first from his homeland to train a winner there when Horse Chestnut won the Group 3 Broward Handicap in 2000. The same horse remains the only one to have won the South African Triple Crown and his Asiatic Boy is the only horse to have sealed the UAE version. World Cup night is, of course, the main focus of his Carnival campaign and he said: "Numerically, this is our strongest ever team with about 40 contenders and we hope it is the best quality team we have assembled.
"However, it is a real international operation now and a lot of these horses will be given easier campaigns with the UK, Hong Kong, America and all the big races on the agenda. Now we have a base in the UK it is great to campaign horses from there. Asiatic Boy is hopefully World Cup bound and runs at Nad Al Sheba. Front House will also run and she is a nice filly, while Archipenko and Eagle Mountain will be seen later in the Carnival. Those who have run so far have pleased us on the whole and will have improved for their outings in terms of fitness.
"Kildonan is a horse I have always liked and Silver Mist has been a revelation with his two wins. Hopefully we have better ones than him to bring out though!" De Kock unleashes stable star Asiatic Boy in tonight's Group 3 Maktoum Challenge II over nine furlongs on the dirt in a fascinating clash with Godolphin's My Indy which the opening round three weeks ago. Both hold World Cup aspirations at the moment and the South African explained: "Obviously the World Cup is a long way off but he is ready for a run. He will improve for the outing."