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Safe Passage is the shortest in the betting of Mike de Kock’s quartet of runners in the R5 million Betway Summer Cup (JC Photos) 
Jack Milner (Tab4Racing)
When studying the history of the R5-million Betway Summer Cup, Mike de Kock has won this race nine times, his last coming in 2010 when Flirtation took the honours.
At Turffontein on Saturday De Kock will be hoping that one of Safe Passage, Aragosta, Shoemaker or East Coast can provide him with that elusive 10th triumph.
All of them are top horses quite capable of winning a race of this nature but on current form they all have to be regarded as “middle-of-the-road” runners.
Safe Passage, in particular, will be a tough runner to beat if he can reclaim his form of last year’s race in which he finished a 0.50-length second behind Puerto Manzano. This year he will meet that opponent on 4.5kg better terms. He is also drawn at No 9 while Puerto Manzano is out at No 16.
At last week’s draw event De Kock explained the issues confronting the 2022 Grade 1 Daily News 2000 champion. “He got a fracture in his foot in Cape Town and he’s struggling to get back to his best form.
“It’s not that he’s been unsound it’s just that he hasn’t delivered, or let down, like he used to. He’s getting there in my opinion and I’m hoping he will turn it around because at the weights, especially with Puerto Manzano, he must have a chance.
“I don’t believe they lose their ability. They might lose their form but eventually their ability returns.”
De Kock has removed the blinkers from Safe Passage for this race.
Aragosta, who won the Grade 1 SA Derby, also has not been at his best of late. “He had a wind op so he’s been behind the eight ball in terms of prep for the race fitness-wise.
“He’s down in the ratings and must have a chance but again, not an ideal prep.”
At the start of his career De Kock called Shoemaker “a proper horse”, but he has not been able to regain that level of form but did run on well when beaten just 3.75 lengths by Puerto Manzano in the Grade 2 Allied Steelrode Onamission Charity Mile.
“He ran a very good race last time if you watch him in isolation. He fought early on with the blinkers and kicked on pretty strongly at the death,” said De Kock.
“He is a very capable horse on his day and there is a weight turnaround with a few. At the latter stage of his three-year-old career everything went pear-shaped.
“He just kept getting viruses and we were really battling with him. We gelded him, took him to Durban, never really himself there, tried the blinkers – it’s all desperation stakes.
“But I would like to say that the Shoemaker I know as an early three-year-old and two-year-old, is pretty much back there again.”
East Coast also showed glimpses of his old form when running on well to finish 2.40 lengths behind Atticus Finch in the Grade 3 Betway Victory Moon Stakes last time.
“That was a good run,” added De Kock. “JP (van der Merwe) did his best to get the horse eliminated from the race, running him via the Jockey Club, but he is also a capable horse on his day.
“He had a few issues as a young horse. I think you can write off his last few runs as a three-year-old but if you go back to his Victory Moon race against Litigation as a young horse, he’s a runner.
I believe he can turn the tables with any of the horses he ran against last time. He’s capable if given a chance.”