DUBAI // River Jetez, Mike de Kock's eight-year-old Dubai Duty Free runner, has been around the block a few times. She is an alumnus of the class of 2003 and used to gallop with her more illustrious stable companion Sun Classique.
But while Sun Classique went straight to the top of the class — winning a treble at Nad al Sheba in 2008 including the Dubai Sheema Classic — River Jetez was a late developer.
Sun Classique has finished her racing career and stands as a brood mare in Australia having sold at auction for A$2m (Dh7.5m). River Jetez, on the other hand, has finally figured out what it is all about.
"She was always in the shadow of Sun Classique," said Marsh Shirtliff, a part-owner of River Jetez, who also owned Pocket Power, a four-time Grade 1 winner, and Jay Peg, the 2008 Dubai Duty Free and Singapore Cup victor. "She is a full sister to Pocket Power, that's why we bought her."
River Jetez did not immediately reward her owner's faith.
"She just took a while to mature," said Shirtliff. "She was always a length behind Sun Classique when they used to work together. But Mike [de Kock] could see potential and we just bided our time."
River Jetez finally found winning ways two years after her stable companion. She won the Grade 1 J&B Met, one of South Africa's biggest races, beating Pocket Power into third, and followed up with two victories in the Pinnacle Stakes and the Grade 2 Gold Bracelet.
In Dubai this season, she continued her good form, finishing third in the Group 2 Cape Verdi to Godolphin's Aspect of Love and winning the Group 2 Balanchine.
Now she lines up for her biggest test against tried-and-tested international performers such as Debussy, the Arlington Million winner, and her stablemate Raihana, the 2010 UAE Derby runner-up. Godolphin saddles its Al Maktoum Challenge Round One winner, Mendip, while Singapore's best horse, Better Than Ever, a winner of 14 out of 15 starts, also takes a chance.
Bankable, runner-up in the race last season also opposes and, at the age of seven, is expected to retire soon after his Duty Free tilt.
But Shirtliff says that far from approaching the twilight of her career, his eight-year-old may have more to come.