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Chaos in South Africa as police fire rubber bullets at striking stable staff

Rubber bullets were fired by police at demonstrating stable staff at Johannesburg's biggest raceday of the year.

The grooms used the occasion to stage a protest for better wages and it soon turned ugly. The police were called in, and once bullets were fired the protestors quickly dispersed, but the first race had to be put back two hours.

The protest served as a stark reminder that the dissatisfaction which resulted in a grooms' strike in June last year has not been sorted out to the satisfaction of Johannesburg-based stable staff.

On that occasion Mike de Kock spoke of being confronted by "300 weapon-wielding, threatening grooms" and added: "It has left me questioning my own loyalty to South African racing."

He has since decided to open a satellite yard in Australia that will be operated by his son and assistant Matthew.

De Kock ran five in the Gauteng Summer Cup, including 2-1 favourite Soqrat, in a bid to win the big Grade 1 handicap for the tenth time.

However, he was thwarted by the enterprise of apprentice Denis Schwarz who sent 28-1 shot Zillzaal into the lead and kept enough in reserve to hold the strong challenge of Anton Marcus on Soqrat in the Hamdan Al Maktoum colours.

Schwarz said: "I took him down early and it all worked in his favour. I felt if you have a ticket you have a chance and there wasn't much pace on, but big thanks to [trainer] Sean Tarry for allowing me to go forward."

The winner is a son of Arlington Million winner Silvano and is the third consecutive Summer Cup winner for four-time champion Tarry, who said: "It was a fantastic ride from Denis but I thought the only way to beat the De Kock horses was to make them carry their weight."

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