MIKE de Kock believes Callan Murray is a young jockey with the rare “X-factor”, which goes beyond sheer riding talent to attitude and professionalism. Murray proved that he is cool as a cucumber winning a good race on the imported Rafeef (AUS) in Saturday’s Gr2 Hawaii Stakes (R400,000) on Guineas Day at Turffontein.

Murray admitted that he’d made a timing mistake when shaking Rafeef up too soon in the recent Wolf Power Handicap at Turffontein, which allowed the hardened campaigner Irish Pride and the wily Gavin Lerena to outsmart them in the finish.

This time, Murray bided his time. The master Lerena was there to contend with again on Irish Pride’s superb stablemate, New Predator, the 1400m specialist and one of the best around. Their duel had the crowd on their feet, but Murray had it spot on and the well-placed Rafeef shifted gears at the right time, ran on well and got the better of New Predator to win by a quarter.

Murray said: “We shouldn’t have got beaten last time, but I learnt my lesson and at least now Rafeef won a bigger race and he should go on to better things.  I am grateful for the opportunities, thanks to Mr De Kock, Mathew and Sheikh Hamdan for their support.”

Like most top young riders of his generation, Murray has his sights set abroad and it’s probably just a question of time before he gets his first offer, but he should also consider that he has – and pardon the pun in this respect – time on his side. There is every chance now of building a formidable partnership with Mathew de Kock, who will in due course take over the string from his Dad and will be eying Grade 1 races with a passion.

De Kock junior said about Rafeef: “He took a big step up today, but he’s a top horse and we expected a good run.  It’s bye-bye to his low merit rating now, but we have some options with him, like the Gr1 Horse Chestnut on Classic Day and a few features later in the KZN Champions Season. He will remain competitive because he’s lightly raced and still improving.”

He added: “This win secured Rafeef a place at stud and he’s got the looks to go with it. Everyone in the stable loves him!”

Photo: Rafeef (left), get the better of New Predator in a driving finish. (JC Photos).

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