South African stalks world's richest horse race with Treasure Beach, writes John Byrne.
Mike de Kock's map to Dubai World Cup night leads to Treasure Beach
The most successful international trainer in the history of both the Dubai World Cup meeting and Dubai World Cup Carnival, the South African Mike de Kock, is set to saddle 13 runners at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday evening, including Treasure Beach, in the world's richest horse race, the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup.
One of the few races on the card he has yet to win, though he has twice saddled the runner-up, De Kock is hoping for a big run from Treasure Beach, who looks certain to appreciate every step of the 2,000-metre Tapeta track.
The trainer noted that the horse has had only one recent start, finishing sixth in the third round of the Maktoum Challenge on Super Saturday.
"But it was his first start since November and he would have needed it," De Kock said. "What it did prove was that he handles Tapeta and he has improved a lot, fitness-wise, in the interim.
"A fast pace would suit him, as he stays further and we are looking forward to running him."
De Kock said Christophe Soumillon will ride. The trainer was echoing similar sentiments, other than the identity of the jockey, about his $5m Sheema Classic hopeful, Await The Dawn.
"They went no pace at all on Super Saturday in the City Of Gold and it did not suit him at all," De Kock said. "He won well on his previous start, having needed his first run badly. Hopefully, there will be a better early gallop this time and, with luck in running, he looks capable of a big show" under the jockey Pat Cosgrave, "who gets on well with him".
De Kock won the 2,400m turf Group 1 race in 2008 with Sun Classique. The trainer's best chance on the night would look to be Shea Shea, who won on Super Saturday over the same 1,000m turf course and distance as the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint.
Beaten in his local debut, he and Soumillon scorched the turf three weeks ago, establishing a track record.
"We knew he was going to need that first run and he showed the benefit of it in style last time," De Kock said. "It was impressive and we hope he is the one to beat on Saturday."
The South African has three set to take their chance in the $5m Dubai Duty Free with Mushreq, to be ridden by Paul Hanagan for his main employer Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, seeking a third 2013 Carnival win.
He is joined in the field by The Apache, winner of the Group 2 Al Rashidiya on his local debut, before finding only Sajjhaa too good in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday, when stable companion Igugu was sixth.
Both of those races were over the same 1,800m turf course and distance as the Duty Free, a race De Kock has won twice.
The South African Horse of the Year last season, Igugu needs to bounce back to her best after two lacklustre local starts.
"We are lucky to have three nice horses for such a valuable prize," De Kock said.
"Igugu as is as fit as she has been since arriving and can, hopefully, run a better race, but she will need to.
"The Apache has done nothing wrong in his two starts locally and remains in good form."
The consistent Star Empire lines up in the Dubai Gold Cup with both Master Of Hounds and Soft Falling Rain taking their chance in the Godolphin Mile.
A Group 1 winner on turf, Master Of Hounds has run well on Tapeta in the past, but Soft Falling Rain, the mount of Paul Hanagan, is defending an unbeaten record that includes a Group 1 win in South Africa and the UAE 2000 Guineas over the same 1,600m on Tapeta as Saturday's race.
The trainer is seeking a sixth win in the UAE Derby, a race Soft Falling Rain could have contested, but with his stamina a major concern over the 1,900m Tapeta trip, the trainer relies on Zahee and Emotif.
"The 1,600m is as far as Soft Falling Rain wants to go and he is facing his stiffest task to date," De Kock said.
"Zahee and Emotif have improved with their outings, but both need to improve on what they have shown to win."
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