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Mike de Kock had an annual presence in big Dubai races for much of this millenium and could well be there in force again next year (Photo: Shamela Hanley) 

The glory days of Mike de Kock and other SA trainers winning big races in Dubai with South African horses and jockeys might be back soon thanks to direct flights to the EU for equine exports being re-instated.

De Kock was full of praise for the team that made it happen and wrote the below article on his website:

It would be remiss of me not to extend my sincere thanks to the individuals involved in finally getting South Africa past the winning post for the reinstatement of direct exports of our bloodstock to the EU and elsewhere. Monday, 25 March, 2024 was a most exciting day for our industry with this breaking news and it may well go down as an historic turning point for our embattled industry.

There are a number of breeders who made contributions to the South African Equine Health and Protocols (SAEHP). At the risk of leaving someone out, I am just going to express my heartfelt thanks. They know who they are. I am sure a list of names will be published soon in their recognition.

I’d like to give my thanks and appreciation to four individuals that deserve the most accolades.

Firstly, Chris van Niekerk, with whom I had the privilege of serving with on the original board of SAEHP when it was formed to address the export protocol issues with increased vigour in 2018. Six long years later, SAEHP has succeeded in what it had set out to do – after having to overcome a series of major obstacles and unforeseen delays. But the task has been done, and I want to tell you that there were months that Chris had to fund SAEHP from his own pocket. We owe him a debt of gratitude.

Adrian Todd, often maligned in this period, kept his head down and continued to press on. I, too, had words with Adrian a few times, especially about the frustrating issue of the movement of horses inside South Africa. He faced a battering of criticism and sarcasm in the media, but he persevered and deserves kudos for that.

Adrian built a top team around him. He carried the flag at dozens of sensitive meetings with high-raking officials here and abroad that were never reported on. He kept digging and digging to get to the right people, knocked on doors all over the world and had to endure some demoralising brush-offs. Well done, Adrian!

David Abery took the reins when Chris stepped down. There was a stage, not too long ago, when SAEHP was on the verge of collapse, but David came up with the masterstroke to approach the Hong Kong Jockey Club for financial assistance through a percentage of the World Pools.

Lasty, a word of thanks to Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the long-serving Chief Executive of the HKJC, an administrator of celebrated stature whose belief in the South African thoroughbred stems from his witnessing of the exploits of horses like Variety Club and was fundamental to his assistance in allowing for monies to be assigned to our cause.

Personally, I have what can be described as fire in my belly today. I know that South Africa produces thoroughbreds that can compete around the world. Now that the playing fields are level, we can return to international competition. My son Mathew tells me every day of his belief that our runners will hold their own in Australia, especially over a mile and up. I look forward to seeing our runners take on the Aussies in their backyard.

And then there is Dubai, where our former infrastructure remains accessible to us. We have stables and equipment, and now we can return with our horses to fill those stables. In recent seasons the Dubai Carnival has lost its competitive edge and with that some of its glamour. This issue was dealt with in a recent Racing Post article. Perhaps the time has come for us to send some runners to the UAE again, to restore healthy competition, international flair and traditional rivalries.

There are interesting times ahead!