South Africa Racing – Flowerbomb to bloom while Naval Guard gets a welcome return run

Trainer Mike De Kock (Credits to Mike de Kock Racing Twitter)

Clive Robinson

The unexpected retirement of champion trainer Paul Peter just a few weeks into the current season has resulted in more than 200 thoroughbreds seeking new pastures.

They have been shipped all over the country, with many not having been in action since.


Naval Guard, one of Peter’s most consistent and reliable runners, is now in the care of multiple champion trainer Mike de Kock, who sends out the five-year-old gelding on Thursday 24 November in Race 4, a Middle Stakes over 1600m at the Vaal.

A five-time winner from 11 outings, Naval Guard has been quite phenomenal this calendar year.

He shed his maiden tag on New Year’s Day third time out – his first run after gelding – when lining up with a merit rating of 65.

Four further victories saw that rating shoot up to 96, and there’s no reason to believe that he has reached the pinnacle of his potential.

After being in limbo for 144 days, De Kock is obviously giving Naval Guard a let’s-see-where-you’re-at run, as the 1600m trip is on the sharp side for his new inmate. His last four victories were all over either 1800m or 2000m.

Having finished a close-up third in a Group 3 event in his penultimate, he does look to be in a different class here.

With that said, there are a few concerns. Not only is this son of Elusive Fort racing fresh and for a new yard, he will also have jockey Randall Simons in the saddle for the first time after his regular rider Warren Kennedy departed for New Zealand. He has also not found the Vaal a happy hunting ground in three attempts.

And he’s also not ideally drawn, jumping from gate 9.

However, as the highest rated, and best weighted runner in the field of ten with an average merit rating of 86, Naval Guard should be able to show a clean pair of alumites to his challengers.

Bettors looking for a banker on the day should take a close look at the Corne Spies-trained Flowerbomb, who will be in action in Race 5, a Middle Stakes over 1200m.

Although this three-year-old filly goes the distance for the first time, previous results suggest she’ll bloom over the trip.

Beaten just 0.25-lengths by Bella Chica in a listed event last time out, she was flying at the end and can be considered unlucky not to have taken the honours. Well weighted she looks unstoppable.

Spies has his yard in fine nick and will probably we waiting near the winner’s enclosure when the race is run.