De Kock's Honour Devil Best in UAE Derby
De Kock earned his fourth UAE Derby win with Honour Devil, a 4-year-old Argentina-bred colt by Honour and Glory. Four-year-olds foaled in the Southern Hemisphere are eligible for the race and have dominated previous runnings. Neither Honour Devil nor the South African-bred Royal Vintage are eligible for the American Triple Crown Classics, although de Kock said afterward that he is targeting the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) for Honour Devil this fall.
Jockey John Murtagh kept Honour Devil on the outside of the field while rating in fourth, surging past the pacesetter Massive Drama to challenge for the lead with Royal Vintage on the inside and Strike the Deal between them. But in the final furlong, it was all Honour Devil under Murtagh's urging.
America's top hope in the US$2 million event at about 1 1/8 miles, Zayat Stables' Massive Drama, led the field to the straight but was hard-pressed from that point on under Garrett Gomez for trainer Dale Romans. Strike the Deal was the first to sweep past to lead briefly before being tackled by the de Kock duo. Massive Drama faded to ninth.
Royal Vintage defeated Honour Devil by a head in their last encounter, the Listed Al Bastakiya at Nad Al Sheba March 6. Honour Devil won the UAE Two Thousand Guines (UAE-II) by a half-length over Royal Vintage prior to that.
It looked like a repeat of those races was in store when the rivals hooked up in the straight but Honour Devil ended the drama early while drawing off as he approached the wire. Kevin Shea rode the runner-up.
"I thought we'd have another close finish, but at the end, the tougher horse won," said de Kock, who won the UAE Derby last year with Asiatic Boy for the same owner, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
"He's real cocky," Murtagh said. "I learned a lot about him last time. I let him relax (that day) and he got really relaxed. This time I kept him alert.
"He's a very nice horse. I liked him from the first time I sat on him and have to say I probably didn't give him the best ride last start."
De Kock added, "He broke very well. They went quite quickly. He's really tough. If he wants to go eyeball to eyeball, he will.
“The long term plan is the Breeders’ Cup Classic for him and with the second horse we'll look to the Dubai World Cup here next year."
Honour Devil has won four of five lifetime starts.
The Godolphin filly Cocoa Beach closed for third, 3 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up, with Light Green fourth.
“He really wasn’t handling the ground too well and he was getting away from me a little bit," Gomez said of Massive Drama. "He’s a really aggressive horse so it was hard to get him in a rhythm.”
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