De Kock Doubles Up With Sun Classique
Kevin Shea piloted the 5-year-old Aussie-bred mare through a dream ground-saving trip in the about 1 1/2-mile grass event. Rated in fourth behind the front-running U.S. hope Spring House, Sun Classique, at U.S. odds of 7-1, got through along the inside at the head of the straight to challenge the pacesetters. After getting a narrow advantage, Sun Classique edged away under a strong hand ride to a clear three-length lead with about 250 meters ago.
She held sway with a couple of cracks of the whip over Viva Pataca and jockey Darren Beadman to win by 2 3/4 lengths. It was three-quarters of a length to third-place finisher Doctor Dino, who closed much ground for Olivier Peslier from far back in the 16-horse field to gain the show spot narrowly over Germany's unlucky Quijano.
“This is heaven on earth," Shea said afterward. "She had the perfect trip, she had weight (119 pounds) in her favor and was right at the top of her game. What more can I say ... she must be one of the best turf fillies in the world.”
The winning time of 2.27.45 was just .05 seconds outside the track record.
Sun Classique won her third straight at Nad Al Sheba for de Kock and owners Lionel Cohen and W.V. Rippon. The daughter of Japan's Fuji Kisek bumped her career earnings by 10 times to more than $3.3 million with her ninth victory overall in 15 starts. Sun Classique was a grade I winner last June in South Africa.
"She' just been special for a long time," said Cohen, who bred the winner as well. "I would like to dedicate it to my family and my late father. She's just awesome. When she hit the front, I thought it would take a very special horse to beat her. She's one of the best fillies on the planet."
De Kock won the US$2 million UAE Derby (UAE-II) earlier on the card with Honour Devil. His double was complemented by fellow countryman Herman Brown winning the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I). Shea joined Anton Marcus as a winning jockey from South Africa.
The 6-year-old British-bred gelding Viva Pataca was favored off his dominating 2 3/4-length win in the Hong Kong Gold Cup (HK-I) Feb. 24. After conceding a huge advantage over the first half of the race, Viva Pataca had to await room in the straight before launching his bid.
"He came into the race at the right time," Beadman said of the runner-up. "He gave me a great ride all the way and thought he was going to win. We didn't quite get there but it was a tremendous effort.”
U.S. grade I star Better Talk Now, given the best chance among the American hopes, was far back in the pack and didn't challenge. He finished ninth. Spring House faded to 10th.
“I had a pretty good trip," said jockey Ramon Dominguez of the 9-year-old Better Talk Now. "He tried really hard but it just wasn’t his day today.”
Garrett Gomez, talking about Spring House, noted, “I felt like we got away with some pretty soft fractions early on. I really didn’t want to be on the lead but I didn’t want to be caught out wide either. When I wanted to quicken a little bit he did but when it came down to the sprint home he really couldn’t keep pace.”
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