x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Horse racing: Mike de Kock calls for consistency

Rules should be standardised, says South African trainer, as Royal Ascot looms.

South African trainer Mike de Kock.
South African trainer Mike de Kock.

Newmarket // Mike De Kock has called for a comprehensive set of global racing rules in the lead-up to next week's five-day Royal Ascot meeting.

The South African trainer is in England overseeing the final preparations of Shea Shea, who lines up as the overwhelming favourite for Tuesday's King's Stand Stakes on account of his record-breaking victory in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse in March.

De Kock has sent horses to virtually every major racing jurisdiction and would like to see more consistency in the sport's regulations, at minimum.

From prohibited substances, quarantines and rules of racing, each jurisdiction has its own idiosyncrasies, which De Kock believes is stifling the sport from growing further internationally.

"I should be able to go and race in any country and know the rules in terms of medication, but also objections and interferences," the Dubai World Cup Carnival's most successful international trainer said.

"Rules should be standardised throughout the world and there is no need to have different ones. Anything that cleans up the sport can only be good for the game. It is a wonderful industry and doesn't need the headlines it is getting."

De Kock was referring to the almost continuous stream of doping stories in the sport around the world, the latest being that 17 horses in Hong Kong this week tested positive for a growth hormone.

Britain is currently engulfed in a doping scandal of its own after two trainers admitted to using a veterinary preparation that contains traces of an anabolic steroid.

De Kock has been in Britain barely a week, but he wasted no time adding to the almost-deafening calls for a worldwide ban on performance-enhancing drugs and put his full support behind the criminalisation of anabolic steroids put in place in Dubai at the behest of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, whose Newmarket stable in England had several horses test positive for a banned substance two months ago.

"Any of those sorts of moves are positives," De Kock said. "I have initiated back home to have our rules adjusted to not have anabolics at all, unless there is a veterinary necessity. There is absolutely no need for them.

"I am pretty sure South Africa will move now to ban them in training. It is the only way to go."

Shea Shea has been in England for five weeks alongside 14 stablemates, including Soft Falling Rain, Igugu and Treasure Beach.

Shea Shea has been working on the undulations of Newmarket's gallops and went for a recent spin along the July Course here, which has an uphill finish in an effort to get the sprinter ready for his Ascot test.

In Dubai and South Africa, Shea Shea only trained and ran on flat tracks, but De Kock does not envision any problems next week as he seeks his first victory at the Royal meeting.

"He has got used to the hill work," he said. "It is completely different going fast and flat and round a bend to going up hills on a straight but he seems to be dealing with it.

"Horses probably handle more than you think they do."

One horse in De Kock's team that has not taken hill work in his stride is Soft Falling Rain, who will next run in next month's Group 1 July Cup in which he could be joined by Shea Shea, should he run well at Ascot.

De Kock has had to ease off the impressive Godolphin Mile winner, after he pulled up sore in his rear muscles.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid's horse is not the only one on the easy list at De Kock's Abington Place base, with champion mare Igugu also being nursed back to full fitness after her disappointing campaign during the World Cup Carnival.

Igugu ran three times behind Sajjhaa, the subsequent Dubai Duty Free winner, during the Carnival to a backdrop of hormonal issues. She was then eighth to Military Attack in the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, and although she is back in training, it is too early for De Kock to suggest a potential target.

Treasure Beach, who last won in August 2011 when taking the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, is another who has been delayed in his work but could be aimed at a race in the next two weeks.

Formerly trained by Aidan O'Brien, Treasure Beach was also disappointing in Dubai, capping his season at Meydan with an eighth-place finish in the World Cup, followed by a lacklustre run behind Igugu and Military Attack. According to De Kock, Treasure Beach's long run of defeats has affected his confidence, and a 12-furlong race at Newmarket on June 29 could well give him the boost he needs.