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Mike de Kock said last year’s Hollywoodbets Durban July win was right up there with his most satisfying victories in South Africa’s premier horse race (Candiese Lenferna Photography).


Mike de Kock is not concerned about Christophe Soumillon’s lack of experience of the tight Hollywoodbets Greyville raceourse.
When asked the question, he replied, “If it was his first ride in Hong Kong or at the Breeders Cup or the Dubai World Cup would you be asking me that question. There is no concern.”
Belgian-born and France-based Soumillon would become the first foreign rider in history to win the July, at least in the known history of the big race.
However, he is no ordinary rider and could well be the world’s most naturally gifted jockey.
De Kock was asked if he was happy with the draws for Dave The King and Safe Passage respectively and replied, “I was hoping for anything between 8 and 12 and I got 10 and 14, so no complaints. I like to stay a little bit out of the scrum. I prefer that for the July. It can get a little bit hectic depending on what your tactics are on the inside and I see there are a few fancied horses around each other on the inside, so it will be interesting to see what sort of tactics will be employed. Justin’s got five in the race, maybe there is something there as a pacemaker, but I have a feeling he wants to run 1,2,3,4,5 and 6th!”
De Kock was asked whether Soumillon being on Safe Passage meant the latter was the stable elect and he replied, “You know, this horse Dave The King has improved a helluva lot. He is absolutely flying at home. He’s come on from his last start, he’s definitely improved on at least what he was beaten.”
The big Global View gelding was the 0,70 lengths runner up to See It Again in the Gr 1 Daily News 2000 and is now 1kg better off, although the latter did win easing up.
De Kock continued, “However, I have a big question mark over the 2200m with Dave The King because he has a tremendous amount of pace and he has a massive, massive action.”
Dave The King has given the impression of being a bit one-paced in the straight in his last two starts at Hollywoodbets Greyville, but this might have been an illusion created by the combination of his huge stride and having had to come from a handy position over 1600m and then from the front over 2000m.
De Kock was asked this question and replied, “Well if he is one-paced it’s a very fast pace!”
The Gary Player Stud-bred Dave The King’s sire Global View has not shone, but this does not worry De Kock who said such a sire often produced one good one and he pointed to him being out of a Jet Master mare.
He moved on to Soumillon’s mount, who finished third in the July last year.
“Safe Passage last year caught me unawares in the Daily News. He gives away nothing at the track. Last year I thought he needed the run, didn’t think he could run well, he goes and wins the Daily News. He’s a funny horse, he gives away nothing when it comes to work. But he is as sound and as well as I’ve ever seen him and moving probably the best I’ve seen him move ever.”
Safe Passage is by the most successful July sire in history, the late great Silvano, who has had five individual winners of the big race. De Kock has trained the first and last of Silvano’s July winners to date, Bold Silvano in 2010 and Sparkling Water last year.
De Kock has won the July five times and asked which was the most satisfying he replied, “It’s always the first one (Ipi Tombe 2002), no doubt. Every single one of them is massively satisfying, I must be honest, and last year’s was also right up there because it was for Mary. For what she’s done for my personal life and racing. I thought it was fitting she got a July under the belt. She has won a lot of other races, but the July’s a race that has eluded her and I think it was a very special moment for all of us who are involved with her. She imported the mother and bred the horse (Sparkling Water) and owned her, that was extra special for her.”
On the big day on July 1 De Kock will not be “tying his jockeys down too much with instructions.”
He said, “I really believe when you employ a jockey you have got to also allow him to think. A lot happens in 400m out the gates and the best plans are often buried there and then.”
Both Safe Passage and Dave The King have been prepared out of Summerveld.     
Craig Zackey has ridden Dave The King in all three of the starts the horse has had for De Kock and he retains the ride.