Double delight for flying Shum
The new-season battle of the sophomore trainers became even more exciting at Sha Tin with Danny Shum Chap-shing replying to the opening salvo of Caspar Fownes with a splendid double that could so easily have been a four-timer.
Shum, the long-time assistant to retired training genius Ivan Allan, captured the fifth event with Determination in his first run since transferring from his former boss. And he then rained on the hopes of rival trainers Tony Cruz (Floral Dynamite) and David Ferraris (Vengeance of Rain) by taking the final event with giant racer Asali.
Shum was also at the runners-up stall on two occasions, with Horse Around (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) in the seventh event and Lucky King (Glyn Schofield) in the eighth.
Despite having just bounded to the early lead in the trainers' premiership, with five winners and five seconds, the perfectionist in Shum shone through last night when he confessed to bouts of sleeplessness over the defeat of Town of Fionn in last week's Chief Executive's Cup.
'If Town of Fionn had won, the week would have been perfect,' Shum said. 'I keep looking back at that replay and Paddy Payne's ride on The Duke was quite incredible. From a wide barrier, Town of Fionn was caught three deep and that was the difference.'
Back in present time, Shum provided reflected glory to Allan for the condition in which Determination arrived at his yard back in June.
'The boss sent him to me in lovely condition,' Shum said. 'I have had the benefit of the care he took with the horse - he was very healthy and very sound. Determination came from England and took a while to acclimatise. He's better now than he was last season. That's why he was up significantly in body weight. He's so much stronger now.'
Shum admitted to a high degree of personal satisfaction from the tactics he and Schofield devised for Determination.
'He used to be ridden forward in his races but I didn't think this really suited the horse,' Shum explained. 'He could do it, but it made him look very one paced. I wanted to try him ridden more quietly and it worked - saving him early meant he develops a good turn of foot at the end of the race.'
In the case of Asali - at 1,300 pounds, the biggest horse in Hong Kong - Shum figured that last week's race when third to Sambuca and My Choice had improved the towering bay.
'He's a very big horse, and therefore not that easy to get fit. He ran very well last week but just ran out of condition in the last part of the race. I thought the race had improved him and in the end, that race fitness was probably the difference in the result,' he said.
While Shum had a booming day, arch-rival Fownes had a less memorable one, lowlighted by the failure of favourite Visorhill behind outsider Sirocco in the main race.
'The barrier draw cruelled it for him,' Fownes reflected. 'From a wide draw like that, the ideal thing would have been to go back, but he's not the sort of horse you can do that to. He tends to be a free-running horse that likes racing on the speed. Ultimately, it just didn't suit him at all.'
With a treble on the opening day and a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday, Fownes is equal with Shum on five winners for the new term, but Shum takes pride of place at the top of the table because of his five second placegetters.