DE KOCK REFLECTS ON ‘WONDERFUL’ ARCHIPENKO
Thoroughbred racing and breeding enthusiasts lost a fan favourite last month when international star Group 1 winner Archipenko died of an aggressive form of lymphoma at the age of 13. A barn favourite, the son of Kingmambo was trained by Mike de Kock and spent two seasons in his Dubai yard, as well as traveling the world competing against the world’s best middle-distance turf horses.
“He was a wonderful horse to us,” de Kock said. “He was a great character and Kevin Shea got on with him unbelievably. He was one of those horses who got under your skin. He was sort of part of the family and a horse we really enjoyed training. He was honest as the day is long. It was sad to see him go.
“He wasn’t the worst sire around,” de Kock continued. “He seems to have (sired) a couple good ones and Group 1 winners. He was an extremely well-bred horse, so you wouldn’t mind a few fillies out of him, that’s for sure.
“It was sad to see him pass, especially with how good he was to the stable. It was a privilege to train him. If we can get one half as good, we’ll be alright.”
Originally in the care of Aidan O’Brien, Archipenko was a Group 2 winner (Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown), but failed to factor in four consecutive Group 1 events to end that tenure. Acquired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and turned over to de Kock, the bay charge took his game to another level.
In nine starts between February 2008 and April 2009, he raced five times in Dubai, including stylish victories in the 2008 Al Fahidi Fort (G2) and 2009 Zabeel Mile (G3). He competed in five Group 1 events for de Kock, including a victory in Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a runner-up effort in the Arlington Million and a third in the Dubai Duty Free (now the Dubai Turf).
As a stallion, he has been represented by Group 1 winners Madame Chiang, Forty One and 2017 Hong Kong Cup winner Time Warp. Other top offspring include Polish Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year Va Bank, as well as multiple Group 2 winner Silver Look – both likely to compete at the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
VARIAN HIGH ON CAPE BYRON IN SINGSPIEL
Multiple international Group 1-winning trainer Roger Varian will once again have a presence at the Dubai World Cup Carnival in 2018. While he admittedly lacks a horse the caliber of retired four-time Group 1-winning trainee and 2016 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) champion Postponed, the 38-year-old Newmarket-based conditioner is optimistic with his current representation.
Carrying the same yellow and black as Postponed once did, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s Cape Byronis a lightly raced 4-year-old who has proven consistent and promising in a short period. A winner at second asking in October 2016, the son of Shamardal did not resurface for nearly 11 months when a winner on Sept. 8 in a minor stakes at Ascot going one mile. He returned 29 days later to finish third in the Listed Prix Le Fabuleux at Chantilly going 1800m.
“He’s lightly raced, but he’s a horse we’ve always held in quite high regard,” Varian said. “He’s got to step up on the level of form he’s shown so far, but he if can do it, he will be a horse who could be good enough to still be here in March.”
Rated 102, he is stepping up in class in Thursday’s US$175,000 Singspiel Stakes (G3) going the same distance as his effort in France. He faces the likes of Benbatl, Earnshaw, Emotionless and Light the Lights in an intriguing renewal of the recently upgraded affair.
Banner-mate Connecticut is rounding into form for his connections. A 2400m specialist, the son of New Approach returned from a two-year layoff to run evenly in a pair of listed stakes in the autumn. In his previous nine tries, from April 2014 through July 2015, he was trained by Luca Cumani and won five races, including the International Bosphorus Cup (G2) in Turkey.
“Connecticut would appreciate (faster) ground,” Varian explained. “He had a year off last year, but he was back with two runs in the autumn and is probably best at a mile and a half. His form of two years ago was strong, but he’s not quite ready to run yet.”
Globally, Varian has kept a steady stream of top-level horses in his barn over the last decade, including Nahrain, Nezwaah, Ambivalent, Ajman Princess, Vert De Grece, Kingston Hill, and Belardo. In Dubai, he has performed well over the last few Carnivals, including striking at 27% from a small sample of starters.
“They have to be good enough to be here,” Varian said. “Not just in March, but all the way through the Carnival. It’s quite competitive. We are a big stable and we try to bring a select few to come down, if we can. Hopefully our horses will run well and I’ll have reasons to keep coming down (from England).”
TIME WARP COUNTS DOWN TO DUBAI
Reigning Hong Kong Cup (G1) Champion Time Warp is under consideration for the Dubai Turf (G1) and Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) – each with US$6,000,000 – if all goes well with his winter campaign. According to Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Tony Cruz-trained star will likely run in the 1600m Stewards’ Cup (G1) and 2000m Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) – both at Sha Tin – beforehand.
“I’m planning to enter him for races in Dubai, the Dubai Turf (1800m) and the Sheema Classic (2400m), I think he’ll be suited to going there,” Cruz said.
The Stewards’ Cup takes places on Jan. 28, while the Hong Kong Gold Cup is Feb. 25, five weeks prior to Dubai World Cup night.
REHANA LOOKS TO LAUNCH AGA KHAN’S CARNIVAL SUCCESSFULLY
The powerful stable of His Highness The Aga Khan is likely to be represented well during the 2018 Dubai World Cup Carnival, with at least four horses slated to possibly compete, including two-time defending Dubai Gold Cup (G2) champion Vazirabad. The red and green team will kick off its Carnival with Michael Halford-trained Rehana, who has made a positive impression while training over the Meydan training track over the past week.
“She wants fast ground and we thought she would love the climate here in Dubai,” Halford said. “She wants the sun on her back and she’s three-turning-four and had a light campaign back home (in Europe). She’s a Group 3 winner and we felt there was more racing in her and all along felt we didn’t get the opportunities we had hoped because of the ground during the back-end of the season.”
Rehana has raced six times and won twice in her career, while keeping impressive company. Last out, the daughter of Dark Angel was fourth to multiple Group 1 winner Limato in Newmarket’s Challenge Stakes (G2) going about 1400m. Earlier in 2017, she won the Athasi Stakes (G3) over the same trip – one she returns to in Thursday’s sixth race, the US$160,000 Longines Moon Phase Master Collection (handicap).
“The plan is to run her Thursday and back up in a fortnight’s time for the (Group 2 US$200,000) Cape Verdi Stakes (on Jan. 25),” Halford continued. “She’s traveled well and has a great mind and temperament. (Dubai is) a good place for her.”
NOAH FROM GOA USING THURSDAY’S HANDICAP AS FITNESS BUILDER
South African Group 1 winner Noah From Goa has recovered from his ailments of last season and is ready to kick off his 2018 season on Thursday for trainer Mike de Kock. Second last year in the Zabeel Mile (G2), the 2015 Cape Guineas (G1) winner lines up as the horse to beat in the evening’s sixth race, the Longines Moon Phase Master Collection, a 1400m turf handicap.
“I’m looking to have a good Carnival with a horse like Noah From Goa,” de Kock said. “I’m fairly certain he won’t run his best first up, but he will improve through the Carnival. Suyoof is probably my fittest runner I have on Thursday.”
Suyoof, in the same fixture, has not raced since winning a handicap at this course and distance in February. Fourth in Group 1 company in April 2016, the Australian-bred son of Magic Albert is one of many formidable de Kock runners on the Dubai World Cup Carnival’s opening night card.
“This year we are approaching it differently,” de Kock explained. “I’m looking for them all to move forward, to be frank. We haven’t done as much as we normally would like to do because we have stayed away from the dirt and Tapeta (training track) when it comes to hard work for the horses. We are looking to start slowly and run them into form and probably target the latter part of the Carnival. I think the key thing is having the horses fresh, sound and happy and lasting through the Carnival.”
QUICK HITS – Swift local sprint star Ertijaal blew out a visually impressive 600m on Tuesday morning at the Meydan turf training track with his conditioner Ali Rashid Al Rayhi watching from the viewing area. He galloped out enthusiastically past the wire. The dual track record setter kicks off his 2018 campaign in the same spot he has done so the previous two years – a 1000m turf handicap… California-based Rockingham Farm, which already has Roy H and X Y Jet as possible runners for the US$2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), has indicated that swift, improving sprinter Bobby Abu Dhabi is under consideration for a trip to Dubai… American trainer Dallas Stewart has indicated that Grade 1-winning pupil Seeking the Soul, who is slated to compete in the US$16-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), may have Dubai on the mind with a good performance at Gulfstream Park… George Wood, a top apprentice jockey in England, is set to join the Dubai-based team of international conditioner Charlie Appleby. In 2017, Wood rode 49 winners, increasing his career total to 87… Leading Dubai trainer Doug Watson reported that 7-year-old Candy Boy, who has raced competitively in two editions of the Dubai World Cup (G1), is training forwardly toward a 2018 campaign.