Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

Here is an intriguing question about Mike de Kock’s star performer Hawwaam: could he fly the flag for SA in one of Australia’s biggest races — the Cox Plate — in Melbourne in October 2021?

The son of Silvano was super-impressive when winning Saturday’s WSB Champions Challenge at Turffontein by more than three lengths, and De Kock confirmed it was his final appearance in this country.

It is a blow for racing fans who had him earmarked as the likely winner of the Vodacom Durban July on July 25, but comments on De Kock’s website hint that Australia, where his son Mathew is setting up shop, is the most likely destination.

What better way to kick off your career than have a runner in one of Australia’s most important races. The 2021 Cox Plate is scheduled for Moonee Valley in Melbourne in 16 months.

First run in 1922, the 2,040m Cox Plate has been won by top-class thoroughbreds in recent years. Adelaide won for Aidan O’Brien in 2014 before Winx’s four-year reign from 2015-18. The 2019 victor was the Japanese raider Lys Gracieux.

On his website, De Kock says: “I know what it takes to win abroad and Hawwaam is more than good enough to win a grade 1 race in Australia. I’d like to see him race in Australia. But look what we have to go through to get him there.”

De Kock was referring to the EU not going to greater lengths to get the SA export protocols audit performed, even in Covid-19 time.

He added: “As things stand, he will be going into quarantine soon. He will have to spend three weeks at Kenilworth and a further 90 days in Mauritius before he can travel on to the UK where a further 180-day residency will be required should we choose to travel to Australia.”

De Kock knows the pitfalls that can await overseas campaigns. Horse Chestnut is the horse who springs to mind. Two decades ago the Oppenheimer-owned star looked set for a successful campaign in the US but suffered an injury and was retired.

Soqrat and Tierra Del Fuego chased home Hawwaam at Turffontein and the latter might just have thrown his hat in the July ring. The Sean Tarry inmate was trying 2,000m for the first time and he finished four lengths clear of the fourth horse.

Trainer St John Gray is an expert horseman and, though he was not at the city track on Saturday, he will have been one of the happiest men in Gauteng after Ronnie’s Candy’s victory in the grade 1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes. The Benoni-born princess chipped in an additional R100,000 towards the prize money, which will have made Gray’s smile even wider.

Given a peach of a ride by Piere Strydom, Ronnie’s Candy’s win brought memories of breeder Alan Sutherland, who died at the age of 76 at the beginning of May.

The former Kiwi rugby star stood Ronnie’s Candy’s sire King Of Kings at his Somerset Stud in Mooi River after his arrival from Ireland. In the UK he won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and was favourite for the Epsom Derby before a knee injury ended his career.

Sutherland always maintained that King Of Kings — whose name was changed from Turner by the Coolmore team — was a huge asset to the SA breeding industry. The stallion has certainly produced a top-class female in Ronnie’s Candy.

Queen Supreme, who sent off as favourite for the Empress Club, did not look happy on the firm ground. A decision on her participation in the Durban July will be made by her owners this week.