King Kan the history man
'I'm now the King,' beamed trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee after he broke George Moore's long-standing record for the most winners saddled in Hong Kong with a double at rain-soaked Happy Valley last night.
They used to call Kan 'The Champ,' by dint of his four successive training titles in the late Eighties.
But last night there was no arguing with his self-proclaimed succession after he reached a career 722 winners, one past the legendary Moore who retired in 1986.
Kan, 62, scored back-to-back victories with the front-running Hornet in the fifth and immediately sent out the improving Golden Bell to come from off a strong pace to win the next.
Both were ridden by his former stable jockey Felix Coetzee, who only picked up the mounts as his retaining trainer, the championship-chasing Tony Cruz, failed to get his entries in on time for last night's meeting.
Kan, from a New Territories village adjacent to Sheung Shui, has been breaking records almost from the moment he first took out a licence back in 1978. He sent out 22 winners in his first season, a huge amount then for a rookie trainer when there were far fewer meetings.
He's since won four Derbys, four Queen Elizabeth II Cups, four Gold Cups and four training titles.
His most recent triumph came with Industrialist who took this season's Gold Cup before flooring the French ace Jim And Tonic in the $7 million Audemars Piguet QEII Cup 11 days ago and in the process took his prize money through the $10 million barrier - a record for a first-season performer.
But asked what had been his greatest moment, Kan was emphatic. 'It has to be tonight,' he said. 'This moment has given me the most pleasure. To break George Moore's record means so much to me.' As for his best horse, Kan was his usual phlegmatic self.
'I'm a professional trainer so the best horse is the one which wins me the most money. Therefore it has to be Industrialist.' Kan's unequalled skill as a trainer has brought enormous financial gain and he has never been shy to acquire the trappings of such wealth.
It's said he now has eight cars, including two Rolls-Royces, three Mercedes and a Jaguar. He recently splashed out $40,000 at auction to acquire the car number plate JJ113 because 'I like the number' and his Rolls-Royces are BK1 and BK11.
He's also had his fair share of controversy.
But as director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said: 'He's not always the easiest to deal with but there is no denying this is a tremendous achievement. You can't deny his talent or underestimate what he has done to popularise the sport. Of all the trainers, his following is probably the greatest.' Not bad for a kid who was waiting tables in London before badgering a couple of Epsom-based trainers into giving him his first job in racing as a stable lad.
They'd only gone for a quick supper. Little did they know they were spawning a racing legend. For racing updates see www.racing.scmp.com