By Murray Bell
A thumping win against world-graded opposition in the April 27 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) may have looked like a career highlight for Archipenko, but in the opinion of trainer Mike de Kock, it's just the beginning for the son of Kingmambo.
Ridden by Kevin Shea, Archipenko swooped on the leaders approaching the 200 metres, and then turned the test into a one-horse race, defeating Balius by 1 3/4 lengths in the concluding stages, with local favorite Viva Pataca third. He finished the 2,000-meter race in a swift 2:00.8.
The victory against quality horses from both hemispheres completed a magnificent remake by de Kock and his team, as Archipenko had been a cast-off from the Aidan O’Brien yard at Ballydoyle in Ireland.
It was the second QE II hero in five years for ex O’Brien horses, with John Size having conducted a similar transformation on River Dancer, who scored an upset win at odds of more than 50-1 in the same race in 2004.
The win was a huge result for de Kock, because the primary owner of Archipenko is Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, first cousin of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of Dubai. And like so many members of Dubai’s ruling family, he’s a passionate racing fan.
Mohammed bin Khalifa has owned the last two winners of the United Arab Emirates Derby (UAE-II), both trained by de Kock, and Archipenko was only his second group I winner, following Perfectly Ready in the Goodwood Handicap (Aust-I) in Australia.
“I am very, very happy to get this result and Hong Kong has been very good to us,” he said. “I am also very thankful to Mike de Kock, because my success in racing has increased enormously since I have been involved with his stable.”
The win continued a huge run for jockey Kevin Shea, who had also landed the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) for de Kock on Sun Classique March 29.
De Kock said Archipenko had not been rated by his previous trainer and been largely used as a pacemaker in races for more favored stablemates.
“He’s taken a while to come our way, and slowly, but surely, the penny’s starting to drop with him,” de Kock explained. “I think he should have won the Dubai Duty Free, but he made his own problems by not taking a gap when it was presented to him. That sort of thing is only inexperience, and he was better again today.”
The champion South African horseman has made a huge impact on the QE-II, running second with Greys Inn (behind Vengeance of Rain in 2005) before winning it the following year with Irridescence, who led throughout under Weichong Marwing. Shea’s ride on Archipenko was a cracker, getting the Kingmambo colt quickly across from his wide barrier into a trailing position, getting cover from Japan’s Matsurida Gogh.
As soon as Shea produced the 4-year-old at the top of the straight, there was only going to be one winner, with Archipenko striding out to win by a dominant margin.
De Kock said Archipenko would now head for Royal Ascot in June, where an assault on the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) awaits.
“I still think this horse is on the way up,” De Kock said. “He’s still doing things wrong through inexperience and immaturity. I truly don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom of him yet at all.”
Viva Pataca raced a little flat, and trainer John Moore said the gelding was suffering a "Dubai hangover.
"That's the danger when you go overseas for these big races, it can take a lot out of your horse," he said. "We knew he was less than 100% today, but he has still run well. His next run will be in the Champions & Chater (Cup, HK-I), to see if we can make it three in a row with him in that race."
Tony Cruz revealed Helene Mascot, the heavily-bet 2-1 second favorite in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, has a grade two paralysis of the larynx, and will now undergo further tests.
The poor performance of the Mercedes Benz Hong Kong Derby (HK-I) winner stunned Cruz, who said later he knew there had to be something wrong.
"I know how good this horse is, and for him to run like that, there must have been something seriously wrong. I just want the public who supported him to know there was a reason for his failure."
Helene Mascot was under pressure from Felix Coetzee shortly after passing the 800 metres and was a beaten horse turning for home. Cruz said he will consult with Jockey Club veterinarian Ben Mason, but his prognosis for the dual group one winner is guarded.
"It's a grade two finding, and from there, the problem can go either way," Cruz said. "There is a small chance it will get better, and it may get worse and require an operation. We'll do some tests on him later this week and hopefully we'll know more soon."