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Mike de Kock has now won five July’s, sponsored for the first time on Saturday by Hollywoodbets, and has won 133 Grade 1s.

He won a Grade 1 in his first season in 1989 with Evening Mist after inheriting a good string with the passing of his guv’nor Ricky Howard-Ginsberg.
However, his career really took off when he won the support of the Oppenheimer family.
The partnership was somewhat lucky to get off the ground. 
He recalled in the Horse Chestnut Book written by Charl Pretorious that when Bridget Oppenheimer phoned him in 1995 asking him to train her horses he believed it to be his friend Joey Ramsden playing a practical joke. 
He said to her, “You must be joking. I have boxes for Mrs oppenheimer, but not for you. You’re not Bridget Oppenheimer.”
She replied, “I sure am and we would like to send you a few horses.”
De Kock half-listened to the rest of the phone call in silence still believing it to be a joke and at the end said dismissively, “Yeah right, send me those horses.”
He said, “She bid me farewell and rang off. I didn’t even ask for her phone number.”
Later Mauritzfontein stud manager Gavin Schafer phoned and told De Kock Mrs. O had just phoned him and said it seemed he did not want to train her horses.
De Kock apparently felt sick at his faux pas. 
He recalled, “I phoned her back and apologised. I thought she would tell me to take a hike. But she was very nice and I know she dined out on that story thereafter.”. 
De Kock said Mrs O’s wonderful sense of humour and forgiving attitude had broken the ice and set the foundation for their future relationship.   
After the Oppenheimer’s had joined it seemed to give everybody in the yard a boost, including the horses, and De Kock began his Grade 1 run.
Record Edge won  the Gold Challenge in 1995.
Then in 1997 the yard had five Grade 1 wins, two with Record Edge, and one each with Patchouli Moon, Raratonga Treaty and Golden Hoard.
There were another five Grade 1 wins in 1998.
None of those Grade 1 winners were Oppenheimer horses.
However, in about 1997 De Kock had spotted Horse Chestnut at Mauritzfontein, whom he described as the most striking thoroughbred he had ever laid eyes on. He gave Horse Chestnut him a 6 on his normal scale of 1 to 5 for breathing space between the jowels and gave him a rare 5 out of 5 overall rating.
Horse Chestnut went on to become, in the opinion of many, the greatest thoroughbred in the history of the South African turf.
He put De Kock from a burgeoning talent on the SA stage on to the world stage.
Tragically, he only had one overseas run in the USA before injury enforced retirement.
However, De Kock has gone on to win many Group 1’s in Dubai, as well as in Hong Kong and Singapore, not to mention a couple of near misses in America.
De Kock paid Bridget Oppenheimer back by winning the July for her in 2004 with her homebred Greys Inn.
He has now paid Bridget’s daughter Mary back by winning the July for her with her homebred Sparkling Water.        
The Summerveld fraternity all confirmed De Kock’s Hollywoodbets Durban July contenders had been looking in magnificent shape in the week of this year’s big race, as any of his horses running in the July would be. 
The most strongly fancied of his quintet was the three-year-old Silvano colt Safe Passage, who started at 11/2.
Sparkling Water was only third best at 16/1.
However, those who can read between the lines would have noticed De Kock always coming back to Sparkling Water during the build up and continually mentioning how well weighted she was.
Charl Pretorious, who has for a long time been the De Kock yard’s media man, was also tipping the filly to win the big race.
De Kock had clearly done his job to perfection and when S’Manga Khumalo did his to perfection it culminated in the fourth easiest win in July history.
The gap in the straight took a while to open for Safe Passage but by that time the bird had flown.
He finished a 3,75 length third after being overtaken late by Jet Dark.
Aragosta sat behind Sparkling Water on the rail and battled to get a clear run in the straight.
Al Muthana  ran on well from last to just pip Aragosta for eighth place.
Three of De Kock’s July winners have been fillies, the other two being Ipi Tombe in 2002 and Igugu in 2011.
His other July win not mentioned above was with Bold Silvano in 2010.  

The July trainer/owner combination on Saturday was definitely one of the most fitting in the big race’s history.

Picture (from left): Trevor Brown (assistant trainer), Stephen Jell, Mary Slack, Diane de Kock, Mike de Kock (Anneke Akal Kitching).