Photo Credit: Chase Liebenberg
Two of South Africa’s best horses, Hawwaam (pictured) and Soqrat—both trained by Mike de Kock for HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum—will face off in Saturday’s Group 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein. The one-mile race was won last year by the latter (when contested in late March), but it is Hawwaam who is the favorite in the race. Considered by many to be the best horse in South Africa, the son of Silvano exits a third as the favorite in the Sun Met (G1) on Feb. 1.
“Both are doing really well,” De Kock said. “It’s a Group 1 and they’ve both had a nice extended spell, freshened up really well and I’m more than happy with both. Hawwaam is a horse who is brilliant and has his temperamental issues—he’s just very masculine. We will take one race at a time and I will speak to (racing manager) Angus (Gold), but he understands the program and we will make a decision together after this. There’s another Group 1 in three weeks’ time that he won last year. He’ll likely be headed for that, provided he comes out well.”
Earlier this year, before the onslaught of COVID-19, the plan was to send the multiple Group 1 winner to the UK to take on some of Europe’s best. That plan is on hold, naturally, but not completely out of the picture for the 4-year-old who carries an official rating of 120.
“Absolutely, I would like to,” De Kock continued. “We were all on line to ship to the EU and then COVID came and stopped direct shipments. That is the intention, but there is still a lot that must happen.”
Soqrat, a determined winner of this last year, has tactical speed and proven very tough to beat in the heat of battle. Rated 119, the son of Epaulette is a homebred who was a disappointing eighth in the Queen’s Plate (G1) on Jan. 11.
“Soqrat is a very good horse and very consistent, barring his last run,” De Kock explained. “He’s very tough and straight-forward. He has a good temperament and is the complete package, actually. He has no quirks and is always a danger going into any race. He’s a top horse.”
Shadwell Racing Media