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Desert Miracle wins Saturday’s Grade 1 HSH Prince Charlene Empress Club Stakes (Picture: Candiese Lenferna).  

Mike de Kock’s victory with Desert Miracle in the HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes on Saturday took him to a phenomenal eight wins of the Grade 1 weight for age fillies and mares mile event.

Craig Zackey has been aboard three of De Kock’s winners. including Desert Miracle, while Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift’s Stud has owned three of them and bred two of them and Wilgerbosdrift’s associate stud farm Mauritzfontein owned the twice De Kock-winner Nother Russia.
Furthermore, Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein bred the first three runners home on Saturday, Desert Miracle, Feather Boa (Flower Alley) and Marigold Hotel (Querari).  
There have only been 18 runnings of this race, which started in 2006.
De Kock won the inaugural running in 2006 with Fair Maiden and has has also won it with Little Miss Magic in 2007, Mother Russia in 2010, Europa Point in 2012, Majmu in 2015, Nother Russia in 2017 and 2018 and Desert Miracle on Saturday.
Weichong Marwing rode both Fair Maiden and Little Miss Magic, Anton Marcus rode both Mother Russia and Europa Point, Anthony Delpech rode Majmu and Zackey rode Nother Russia in both of her victories as well as Desert Miracle.
Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud owned all of Mother Russia, Europa Point and Desert Miracle, while Wilgerbosdrift’s associate stud farm, Mauritzfontein, owned Nother Russia.
Wilgerbosdrift bred Nother Russia and Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein bred Desert Miracle.
Wilgerbosdrift also bred Desert Miracle’s sire Dynasty.
Mauritzfontein owned and bred the 2021 winner of the Empress Club, Summer Pudding, while the 2019 winner Camphoratus was out of the Horse Chestnut USA-bred mare Wild Camphor, who was bred by the late Bridget Oppenheimer, a founding owner of Mauritzfontein Stud.
Desert Miracle provided De Kock with a 135th career Grade 1 win.
De Kock said Desert Miracle had for the first time been ridden exactly how he had wanted her to be ridden in the Grade 1 Schweppes Majorca Stakes over 1600m on WSB Met day.
Under Christophe Soumillon’s sublime hands she was switched off at the back of the small six horse field and in the straight displayed an exhilarating turn of foot to win by 1,25 lengths from the champion Captain’s Ransom.
De Kock said Zackey had her too far back in his first ride of Desert Miracle last time out in a Pinnacle race over 1400m, but he was full of praise for his ride on Saturday.
Zackey also has fine hands and switched Desert Miracle off at the back of the field. He remained patient in the early part of the straight, covering her up behind Under Your Spell, but then switched her inward to the centre of the track just after the 600m mark.
She crept up menacingly under the hands and he then got to work at the 400m mark with vigorous pushing.
He drew the stick at exactly the 200m mark, at which stage she still had some work to do to get the better of the staying on Feather Boa.
She found extra to win by 1,25 lengths.
De Kock also revealed recently Desert Miracle had suffered from epistaxis on an occasion or two.
He added, “If she does not bleed she wins.”
It was therefore a good performance by Feather Boa, who was 3,75 lengths clear of the third-placed horse Marigold Hotel, who beat her Sean Tarry-trained stablemate Under Your Spell by 0,25 lengths.
There was then a further four lengths back to Humdinger, who appeared to prove De Kock’s opinion she is better at 1400m. The spread out nature of the small field suggests a top performance by the first two home.
De Kock said, “We bought Desert Miracle’s dam, Welwitschia, at Goffs, so Mary bred the sire of the winner, imported her mother and now bred the Empress Club winner from them. Add this to Nother Russia’s two wins and it’s a true family affair. Well done to both farms.”
Welwitschia, who was stretched by a mile, had two cracks at the Empress Club Stakes herself, finishing second in 2011 and seventh in 2012.
Mary Slack commented: “Desert Miracle is so beautiful and it’s wonderful to have won two Group 1 races with her this season.”
De Kock said Desert Miracle’s immediate future will be discussed when the whole team meets at the National Sale next week. “We’ll debate this at length. We’ve won two Grade 1s with her, that’s enough for her pedigree so we have to ask ourselves if we go out on a high or go for another big race or a trophy. Fortunately, Mary always puts her horses first so the right decision will be made.”
On a memorable day for Mary Slack she also won the Listed Spook Express Stakes over 2400m with a Wilgerbosdrift homebred filly, the Sean Tarry-trained three-year-old filly Red Maple.
Red Maple is by Silvano out of an Irish-bred Fastnet Rock mare and she enjoyed the step up to a staying trip, beating the consistent and gallant Barend Botes and Yolandi Vosloo-trained Kind Judy by a quarter of a length.
Red Maple, ridden by Philasande Mxoli, did only carry 50kg off her 80 merit rating but it was only her sixth career start and she should continue to progress.
Tarry also won the most lucrative maiden of the season, the R300,000 Monaco Sport Of Kings Charity Maiden Sprint over 1160m with the Lance gelding Silver Turdor, who was ridden by Richard Fourie and won easily by five lengths.