x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

De Kock’s Variety Club makes breakthrough for foreign raiders in Champions Mile

South African trainer had posted previous best showing by a foreign horse when Musir took third in 2011

South African horse Variety Club, ridden by Anton Marcus, crosses the finish line to win the Champions Mile at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong on May 4, 2014. Vincent Yu / AP Photo
South African horse Variety Club, ridden by Anton Marcus, crosses the finish line to win the Champions Mile at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong on May 4, 2014. Vincent Yu / AP Photo

Variety Club became the first international challenger to win the Champions Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse with a performance from the front under Anton Marcus that simply blew away the opposition.

The two-time South African horse of the year led a wall of horses at the 400-metre mark, but it pulled clear to win by four lengths on Sunday from Hong Kong’s main hope Able Friend.

Dan Excel, ridden by Tommy Berry, was third. International raiders Gordon Lord Byron and Mshawish were seventh and eighth respectively.

When Variety Club won the Godolphin Mile at Meydan Racecourse last month, owner Marcus Jooste had a prior engagement with a philharmonic orchestra. He did not make the same mistake twice and Jooste was overjoyed as the two listened to the South African anthem being played out in the winner’s enclosure.

“It’s just pure elation – it’s hard to put into words right now,” the jockey said.

“It’s nice to have a bit of kudos for this, but in fairness, I have to give the horse all the credit. He’s an absolute professional and I’m merely the pilot.”

Since 2005, when the Group 1 event was opened to the world, the best position a foreign horse had achieved was the third place by Mike de Kock’s Musir in 2011. It proved appropriate, therefore, that the South African trainer secured the landmark.

De Kock said by phone from Sha Tin that Variety Club would head to his English base at Abington Place in Newmarket before a decision would be made as to where the six year old would race next.

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