A typically beautifully judged front-running ride by champion jockey Piere Strydom provided one of our greatest trainers of the modern era with his 3000th career winner at Turffontein on Saturday.
South African horseracing stands united in a proud salute to Mike de Kock – the Alberton born son of a car salesman who took over the yard of the late Ricky Howard-Ginsberg in 1987 and went on to win eight National championship titles.
Over three decades, De Kock has mostly single handedly changed the way the international racing community perceives us – and it is quite ironic that on the very day that he notched up his 3000 winner milestone, he was thousands of miles from home base, campaigning at the Super Saturday meeting in Dubai – one of his favourite hunting grounds.
His son Matthew has taken over the responsibility in Dad’s absence and celebrated a hat-trick on Gauteng Guineas day – saddling Rafeef to win the Gr2 Hawaii Stakes, Nother Russia to win the Gr3 Acacia Handicap – and finally Janoobi, who dramatically clicked the timer over to the magical 3000 in the Gr2 Gauteng Guineas.
Only nine 3yo’s lined up in the R1 million Gr2 Gauteng Guineas, the first leg proper of the SA Triple Crown, but the lack of numbers gave no notice of the thriller that was to unfold.
Oozing his trademark confidence, the legendary Strydom, who reached his personal 5000 winner milestone in November 2014, took Janoobi out to lead from the break – and the pair were never headed.
Racing in the blue and white of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, carried to victory by Rafeef earlier in the Hawaii Stakes, Janoobi showed guts and courage, prompted by the urgings and fine balance of the ever competitive Strydom.
At the 50m mark it looked like De Kock may have to wait another day. But in a drive to the wire, Janoobi stayed on with massive heart to beat the flying Al Sahem by a head in a time of 99,82 secs – versus the girls’ 100,47 secs a half hour earlier.
The winner’s stablemate Heavenly Blue took forever to get going and was beaten just over a length back into third.
Tilbury Fort snuck ahead of Matador Man – who had to be reshod at the start – to make it a De Kock – Tarry dominated quartet.
Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes winner Doosra never showed, running close on double digit lengths behind the winner.
An elated Strydom, who had previously won on Janoobi and ran fourth on him in the Cape Guineas, said that the son of Silvano was ‘a different horse today’.
“He didn’t pull hard out front like he usually does. And he feels like he has grown – he is a short, stocky horse. I am so pleased to have been aboard at this big win for Mike de Kock,” he said.
Matthew de Kock paid tribute to his Dad – who, he said, had ‘come from nothing’, He thanked the team and said that Piere Strydom was the man to have aboard ‘at times like this’.
A R1,2 million Cape Premier Yearling Sale Book 1 graduate, Janoobi has won 4 races with 2 places from 9 starts for stakes of R1 557 500.
Bred by Maine Chance Farms, he is by Silvano out of the well related unraced Rakeen mare, Shasta Daisy.
Mike de Kock trained his first and only SA Triple Crown winner, Horse Chestnut, 18 years ago. The second leg of the prestigious series is the R2-million Gr1 SA Classic to be run over 1800m at Turffontein on 1 April.
Janoobi may well be back for that – but he may have to conserve his energy as Al Sahem looks very special and will relish the extra. But never underestimate Strydom.
The third leg is the R2 million Gr1 SA Derby to be run over 2450m on Saturday 6 May.
Who knows what water will flow under the bridge before then?