Lui over the Moon as quality German import joins stable
Francis Lui Kin-wai has been rewarded for his late-season purple patch with the news that he is to train the latest high-class European recruit to race in Hong Kong. And the unusual source is Germany - which is fast becoming a fertile hunting ground as Hong Kong owners search for highly rated horses in response to the Jockey Club's recent prize-money boost and changes to the permit system.
Diamond Moon, who finished fourth in the German 2,000 Guineas last month, will join Lui early next month. Useful ex-German sprinter Sunderland is already in Hong Kong following his recent purchase for David Oughton's stable, while Irish Man, another of Germany's leading three-year-olds, is also set to move here subject to veterinary examination.
Lui admitted yesterday he knows little about Diamond Moon, who raced in Germany for trainer Mario Hofer. 'The owner bought him, but he must be one of the best horses to come into my stable and I'm very happy to get him,' said Lui, who has enjoyed a marvellous end to the current season with eight winners since the beginning of May at a strike-rate of around 12 per cent.
'I've got about 50 horses at the moment but I expect to have a full stable of 60 next season. It would be nice to get a few more good-class horses,' he added.
Gonlargo, winner of four of his 10 starts for Andy Leung Ting-wah, is one of only two previous imports from Germany, which is noted mainly for middle-distance horses and soft-ground performers.
But Dan O'Donnell, who brokered the Diamond Moon deal on behalf of the owner, believes Germany may offer better value for Hong Kong buyers than the more established European powers of Britain, Ireland and France.
'Germany is an emerging country in racing terms and at the moment the prices are more realistic there,' he said. 'Diamond Moon is rated 104 by the Jockey Club in England, but the same horse trained in England or Ireland could be quite a bit more expensive.'
O'Donnell, whose Anglo-Asian Bloodstock Services is also close to completing the Irish Man deal, added: 'German horses are very competitive around Europe and there is more speed in their pedigrees now because they have been sending a lot of their mares to top Irish stallions such as Danehill.'
Diamond Moon is currently in quarantine in England awaiting his transfer to Hong Kong. The Irish-bred three-year-old son of Brief Truce was a fast-finishing fourth in the German 2,000 Guineas, a Group Two mile event at Cologne on May 13.
Irish Man has had five starts, winning three times and finishing runner-up twice. The son of Irish stallion Big Shuffle has won his last two outings in Listed company over 1,200 metres.
Sunderland, formerly a stablemate of Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Silvano, won a Group Three event over 1,300 metres at Hoppegarten, Berlin, last summer. The four-year-old son of Emarati was due to run in the Singapore KrisFlyer Sprint last month but had to be scratched after a minor setback.
Oughton, who takes charge of Sunderland on Tuesday, said: 'He picked up a slight respiratory infection on the journey to Singapore, which is why he didn't run there. He will run for the Wing Tung Fat Syndicate, who are new owners to my stable.'
The search for high-class imports has been fuelled by a massive prize-money boost for next season, which saw purses for Hong Kong's top international and domestic races increased by upwards of 20 per cent.
The drive towards higher quality was supplemented by a new Jockey Club policy, which allows a retired horse to be replaced immediately with one rated 105 or more on the international scale.