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Even the hadedas hung around to watch Champagne Cocktail’s impressive win (Picture: JC Photos)

Mike de Kock won the country’s premier race, the Hollywoodbets Durban July, for a fifth time last year and he looks to have another potential winner of the big race in his yard.

It would be madness to rate a horse that highly after just one run, but De Kock’s impressive winner at Turffontein Inside on Saturday, the Wilgerbosdrift-owned and Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein-bred Champagne Cocktail, is a full-sister to last year’s July winner Sparkling Water, so the pedigree is at least there.

The performance looks to be there too at this early stage.

The tall Silvano filly was backed from 3/1 into 18/10 for the 1700m event.

She took a good hold under JP van der Merwe after jumping well from draw three and secured the rail.

She ran almost all the way around the turn without cover, because would-be leader Crystal Maiden was unable to get around the big, long-striding filly until just before “the strip.”

Champagne Cocktail got a nice tow down the strip from the latter and accelerated past her into the lead as they came off the elbow.

When she was challenged at the 300m mark she found another gear and galloped away from them to win by 7,50 lengths.

She dwarfed the rest of the field physically and in performance.

She outdid her sister in this debut performance. Sparkling Water started her career on the same course, but over 1450m, and won by 1,50 lengths after being backed to 14/10 favourite back in November 2020.

Sparkling Water finished fourth in the Gr 1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic in just her fourth career start.

Sparkling Water’s three career Graded stakes wins were all against the boys. Besides the July, she also won the Gr 3 Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m and the Gr 2 New Turf Carriers Western Cape Stayers over 2800m.

De Kock has not wasted any time in sending Champagne Cocktail over ground and she looks to have a bright future ahead of her.

Van der Merwe said in the winning interview, “Everything is there, nice quality, temperament … proper race horse. She has big shoes to fill but nice to start here.”

De Kock said Champagne Cocktail did not possess her sister’s speed, but she would go “as far as you want.”

He added, “She’s got a lot of natural ability and a way better temperament than her sister which helps to work with them. That’s for now anyway, but they can also change.”

He said one was always nervous for a first-timer of such quality, but praised the filly for her professionalism both in the parade ring and behind the pens.

He said it was too early to get excited, especially considering the fields are still relatively weak midway through the second month of the season.

He concluded with some telling words, “These are the kind of horses that make you get up in the morning.”

Mary Slack was represented by her daughter Jessica Jell who said, “I got goosebumps seeing her in the parade ring, because she looks so like her sister.”

Sparkling Water and Champagne Cocktail are out of the former De Kock-trained British-bred Espumanti.
She was bought by Wilgerbosdrift Stud’s bloodstock agent Jehan Malherbe (Form Bloodstock) at the Tattersalls sale in Newmarket for 130,000 Guineas in 2011.
Espumanti is by Dansili (Danehill) and is a half-sister to a dual Listed winner by Efiso.
She is from the family of Dick Turpin (Arakan), who won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Deauville in France in 2010, and perhaps that was one of the reasons for the purchase because the first stallion the Oppenheimer’s ever imported, Janus, also won the Prix Jean Prat.
Janus, who was by Pharis (Pharos), sired the Oppenheimer’s first July winner Tiger Fish.
Ironically Espumanti was retired after finishing last in the July in 2014.
However, before that she had been well performed. She won six races including two Grade 2s and was runner up to Beach Beauty in the Grade 1 Garden Province Stakes.
At stud her first foal was the useful speedster Gin Fizz, a multiple stakes runner up.
Sparkling Water (Silvano) was Espumanti’s second foal.
Her third foal was a Soft Falling Rain colt, Buck’s Fizz, who won once over 1200m.
Her fourth foal was Champagne Cocktail and she has a two-year-old filly by Vercingetorix called Spumante Dolce.