There will be a feast of racing this Saturday with the Dubai World Cup meeting coinciding with the SA Derby meeting at Turffontein.
The highlight of the local meeting will be the appearance of the Mike de Kock-trained Hawwaam in the Derby. He is not the highest merit rated horse in South Africa, but was accorded the highest ranking among SA horses in the first edition of the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings for 2019. The ranking assessments were made on three-year-olds and upwards which raced between 1st January 2019 and 10th March 2019.
He was assessed to have put in the tenth best performance in the world for that period and was given a rating of 119. Do It Again, Rainbow Bridge and National Park were given 118 ratings.
The South African handicappers have him on a 121 merit rating, behind all of Do It Again (125), Rainbow Bridge (124), Soqrat (124) and Head Honcho (122).
Matthew de Kock has no doubt Hawwaam will get the 2450m trip on the basis of his pedigree and physical capacity.
However, there is a concern about his “his attitude”, but Matthew added, “We seem to be winning the battle.”
The Silvano colt over-raced a bit in both the Three Troikas over 1400m and the Gauteng Guineas.
However, he settled in the Grade 1 SA Classic last time over 1800m and this enabled him to produce the same devastating turn of foot he had found in the Dingaans. He won the Dingaans by 3,40 lengths and the SA Classic by 5,75 lengths.
Mike de Kock thanked renowned bit expert “Bomber” Nel for his assistance in getting Hawwaam to deliver his best in the SA Classic.
He was quoted on www.turftalk.co.za saying the day after the SA Classic, “The way Hawwaam threw his head around after the Guineas was a bit rank, so I called in Bomber’s help, he’s an authority on bits and exports his equipment all over the world. Bomber and I spent a day together, it was fascinating to tap into his knowledge. He made an adjustment to Hawwaam’s bit and it’s the little things that make a big difference, as Hawwaam showed yesterday.”
The legendary De Kock-trained SA Triple Crown winner Horse Chestnut went into the SA Derby with some questioning his stamina, but won at a canter by almost ten lengths. Hawwaam is out of contention for the Triple Crown as he finished second in the Gauteng Guineas, his only career defeat, but it is clear De Kock also rates him something special.
“I came off my chair, I got goose bumps,” De Kock told Turf Talk from Melbourne, Australia, from where he watched the SA Classic in a TAB outlet in the Victoria capital. “I don’t know what to say. It was spooky, actually. That was the Hawwaam I know and he’s a proper horse, even more so because I think the runner-up Barahin is top class, I know what I think of Barahin,” De Kock added.
World Sports Betting are taking no chances and have Hawwaam at 1/6 for Saturday’s race.
Of the other contenders the Tyrone Zackey-trained Gift For The Gap, at 22/1, makes appeal as one who will get the trip and who is on the up.
He caught the eye in his penultimate start over 2000m on Turffontein Standside when getting going late and surging in the closing stages.
Then in his last start over that same 2000m course and distance he came from near the back of the field with a strong finish to win the Listed Derby Trial by half-a-length carrying 56kg off an 85 merit rating.
However, the most impressive aspect of the win was the horse’s obvious immaturity.
Here is a 16 hands plus individual with plenty of scope for improvement.
Zackey said, “He still has a lot to learn, how much I can’t tell you, but he is one of those nice horses who is going to win a good few races if I place him right. He is going to be a good stayer, I know he will be up against some good horses in the Derby but we like to have a go, we really enjoy it. When you’ve got a stayer it’s a big plus. For races like the July and the Gold Cup you need that type of horse and he’s also got to have a nice turn of foot. When you’ve got one who is able to come from the back the way he did on in the Derby Trial, you know you’ve got a fair horse. We had a big downpour beforehand too and he only has small hooves, so he did very well.”
The Zackey yard’s most loyal supporters are Kevin and Nadine Backos, his son-in-law and daughter respectively, and they have a share in Gift For The Gap.
Zackey recalled, “We went to the sales and Nadine came to me and told me she had seen a Master Of My Fate colt she just loved and I had to come and have a look. She is a lucky girl and has a good eye for a horse. The horse was this lovely dark brown colour and had a very nice walk but I told her and Kevin I thought he would go for a lot of money. She replied that whatever it takes we must get him and she would then set up a syndicate.”
They secured him for R200,000.
Hawwaam’s attitude will be tested from draw 15 of 15, while Gift For The Gap also has a tricky draw of ten.
However, acceleration is a weapon in the arsenals of both horses and jockeys Gavin Lerena and Marco van Rensburg respectively can afford to drop them out.
By David Thiselton