Champion trainer Mike de Kock wasted no time in getting on the score board on the opening meeting for the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival.
He saddled both the first and third home in the Longines Master Collection Handicap, a 2000m contest on the turf, with Star Empire beating stable mate Sanshaawes into third. Remarkably, both geldings were bred in the Western Cape, with Star Empire being bred by Messrs Muller, Ratner and Salzman, while Sanshaawes was bred by the Oldlands Stud.
Star Empire put an emphatic one and a quarter lengths between himself and runner up Ellevel, with the latter having previously finished second in the 2013 G2 UAE Derby.
Another stable mate, Prayer For Relief, finished third in the day’s feature race, the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 1). In total, the De Kock yard had a winner, two thirds and a fourth place finisher on Thursday night’s curtain raiser.
A truly remarkable athlete, the now nine-year-old Star Empire was making his first start since finishing second to ill-fated G1 winner Brown Panther in last year’s G3 Dubai Gold Cup. Yesterday’s victory was the Mohammed Khaleel Ahmed owned gelding’s third win in Dubai and hopefully there are more wins to come from this remarkably tough and brave gelding. Another attempt at the Gold Cup could be on the cards for Star Empire.
The second Cape bred thoroughbred to win overseas this week (Potent Power having preceded Star Empire earlier in the week), Star Empire was a bargain R70 000 buy at the 2007 Grand West Yearling Sale.
One of the best sons of former champion 2yo Second Empire (by Fairy King), Star Empire surely rates as one of the great bargains of all time, having now earned more than $900 000 (over R9 million) in prize money!
The gelding was produced by the Maroof mare Lady Maroof, who won three times up to 1600m and who finished second in the Listed Syringa Handicap. Star Empire is a half brother to three other winners, notably G2 Green Point Stakes winner and R850 000 earner Fabiani (by Model Man).