Lee repays owners and former mentor's faith
Trainer Almond Lee Yee-tat repaid two kinds of faith at Sha Tin yesterday with a winning double and 'Tchaikovsky's sixth' left him with plenty to think about for the future.
Lee's winners both led from barrier to box, scoring in the Fakei Cup over 1,200 metres, with speedball Successor (Olivier Doleuze) then following up in the final event with David Hayes hand-me-down Tchaikovsky taking the Lek Yuen Handicap over 1,400m.
'I have to thank David Hayes for asking the owner to trust me with Tchaikovsky,' said Lee, who had been Hayes's assistant for many years before receiving his own licence last season.
'With a horse like Tchaikovsky, the owner had many options on who would take over the training this season but I think David put in a good word for me.
'There was a bit of pressure to win with this horse first time out because he had been so successful already, so I'm happy he has done.'
Tchaikovsky, the second leg of Corey Brown's winning double, will now be helping Lee with his future programme with yesterday's sixth victory from just 10 starts giving his trainer something of a headache over what path he should take.
'I would have preferred a 1,200m first-up but it would have meant waiting until the end of the month and I didn't want to do that, so I took the chance on running at 1,400m without the horse being 100 per cent fit,' Lee explained. 'But now we have to think about what comes next. It could be that Tchaikovsky is just an expert at 1,400m, or he might be able to stretch to 1,600m. His owner would like to try him at 1,600m, because if he can run it, there are so many more options with the horse as far as big races are concerned.
'If Tchaikovsky didn't win today, I was prepared to say that he is just a sprinter and not to think about a mile, but now I'd have to say that perhaps he can get further.'
Brown was enthusiastic about the prospect of Tchaikovsky the miler, saying the key will be in keeping the horse solidly-trained.
'Today at 1,400m first-up wasn't ideal even though he had trialled well,' Brown said. 'I thought that 1,400m against all these horses which had already had a race might just find him out but once he ambled across and got a super lead, he was always travelling like a winner. I think if Almond can keep the freshness off him, just keep that sprinting edge off him, then he could do the same at a mile as he did today - lead and keep going.'
But if Tchaikovsky was the faith of his former mentor Hayes repaid then Lee had an even bigger thank you to say to the owners of Successor after his second win from two runs this season.
'Last season, Successor came here from New Zealand with a record of three wins from six outings. He looked promising on paper and his owners were new owners, I was a new trainer,' Lee recalled.
'But the horse really didn't acclimatise to Hong Kong and I told the owners after one or two runs that he probably wasn't going to win in the season.
'Now, a lot of owners might have taken the horse off a new trainer and tried someone else when they heard that, but these guys were great.
'They trusted me when I asked them to be patient and now they are getting their reward. I asked them to give me one year with the horse and they did,' he added.
Successor has been a reformed horse this season, blitzing fields in Class Four and Class Three in his two attempts and looking every chance to win a third time.