Vodacom Durban July pundits around the country will be asking during the next two weeks "where is that German octopus when we need him" and the man with seven horses in this year's race, Mike de Kock, agreed that the form leading into the big race also has him "stumped". (Pictured: Mike De Kock on Gold Cup day, most likely checking with Jockey Kevin Shea as to how many he would have in the July)
He began by saying that he was happy with his horses' draws.
"We've got the whole field covered although the 19 and 20 draw has been reserved for me as usual."
Talking of the pace he said, "They tell me Red Rake likes to stride along, but I'm not sure that suits him best. We might actually want it slower for some of our horses, but we will discuss tactics closer to the time."
He confirmed that all seven of his horses were doing very well before adding, "I have no real fancies among them. The weights might have swung against some of the three-year-olds, but have swung into Lizarre's favour. If you look at his last race in the Pinnacle Plate he went close despite the slow pace, so it was a very good run. Now he has a pull in the weights with the older horses there (although he doesn't have a pull with the three-year-old winner Flying Tristram). He also has a pull in the weights with Irish Flame and Bold Silvano from the Daily News 2000. He has an obvious chance, but then he is drawn 20. Bold Silvano and Irish Flame are both very, very well.
There are two schools of thought regarding the three-year-olds these days. Firstly history would say they have a lot to do at the weights. But secondly a lot of the best older horses have left the country, which could be why the three-year-olds have been dominant. The race this year is also at the end of the month which gives the three-year-olds a weight-for-age advantage.
The three-year-olds have campaigned much more against the older horses this year due to the race being at the end of July. But I can't really make my mind up about them. The form is so topsy turvy. Bold Silvano beat Aslan in the Greyville 1900, but Aslan's subsequent form hasn't seen that form stand up. Orbison was well beaten in Jo'burg, but then comes and runs the race of his life in the Champions Cup. But in that race two horses that turned for home in the first three were first and second and the second horse, Galileo's Galaxy, was previously well beaten in a Pinnacle Plate and only just scraped home in a Graduation Plate against Directorate. But then again Flying Tristram's form when beating Orbison in the Cup Trial stood up as he then won the Pinnacle Plate against Fort Vogue, Rudra, Lizarre and Aslan.
The form is so upside down it has me stumped, but it is the three-yar-olds that have thrown it like that by beating older horses."
De Kock's views on the three-year-olds have particular meaning this year as five of his seven runners, Irish Flame, Bold Silvano, Lizarre, Happy Valley and Ancestral Fore are three, with his couple of older horses Red Rake and Rudra both being five.
De Kock said of the dangers from other yards, "The one horse that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is River Jetez. Whatever beats her will win. She is the one horse the handicapper has not been able to get his paws on to."
Regarding whether he reckoned she would stay a true 2200m or not, he said, "In 2008 she hit the front too soon and is an older stronger filly today."
He did not see the Jeff Lloyd July jinx as a factor in River Jetez's chances, "Muis Roberts had a July jinx but that didn't stop him pipping me in 1997!"
The Roberts-ridden Super Quality beat Golden Hoard by 0,75 lengths in that race and also ended something of a July jinx for the Ferraris family.
De Kock also mentioned Pocket Power, saying that although he was virtually eight-years-old he was yet to run a bad race..
De Kock, reverting to the draws, said, "I'm not sure about wide draws in the July. Sometimes they are okay as you can keep out of trouble. I have won this race from two wide draws."
He spoke too of Rudra being poorly handicapped.
"He is shockingly handicapped. They've got him 0,5 lengths behind Pocket Power. The Gold Challenge proved that he is not a 116. He ran a very good race in the Pinnacle Plate last time, but must now give those horses roundabout 5kg."
He added, "He is a hard horse though. He takes a lot of work. I could run him every week."
De Kock concluded by saying that he believed this could be the strongest July of his time.
"I can't remember a July with the merit ratings of all the horses being so high."
Roll on July 31 for what will not only see a high quality assembly of thoroughbreds, but also one of the most intriguing Julys in living memory.
In fact most pundits at this stage, before the July Gallops on Thursday morning at Greyville, would still have a double figure number of possible winners in their minds.