Happy Crusader gives trainer Tsui reason to smile with storming run
Trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak continued his blistering start to the new season in snaring a double at Happy Valley last night, but could so easily have made it three. The pair of Happy Crusader (Eric Saint-Martin) and China Hero (Anthony Delpech) took Tsui to a clear second behind trailblazer Almond Lee Yee-tat as he continues to build on a successful second term as a trainer last season.
And Happy Crusader's win had as much sentimental value as it had training merit, as it was less than a year ago that the six-year-old failed to complete a race at the Valley with a fractured pelvis.
The gelding came back for three starts towards the end of last season without finding form, but last night Saint-Martin brought him with a sweeping run from the top of the straight which never looked like being denied.
'Actually, the healing process from the fractured pelvis was quite fast physically,' Tsui said. 'But mentally, the horse has taken much longer. 'When he came back to racing, he was not stretching out, waiting for the pain to come again. But Eric has understood the problem well and worked very hard with me on getting him confident again.'
Confidence was a key with China Hero, too, as Tsui had taken him to trial at Happy Valley earlier in the month to ensure the lightly-raced gelding would get around it, after having finished second last over a mile at his only previous exposure.
'He went around beautifully and I thought he had a winning chance even with the wide barrier,' Tsui said. 'China Hero has shown some ability but the problem with him is that he is not a big eater and it is not easy to keep condition on him, so his races have to be spaced.'
The man who foiled Tsui's treble was Australian jockey Glen Boss, who put himself on the scoreboard for the season with a clever display on Caspar Fownes-trained Prime Target, who held out the late finish of Tsui-trained Meath.
Boss begins a two-meeting careless riding ban today, but signed off by looping the field as the pacemakers slowed up nearing the 600m in the Class 4 third event. 'He was in a good spot but I knew when they started to slow up that wasn't going to suit him,' Boss said. 'He's a very one-paced sort of horse, so when I was able to get going at the right time, he kept on for me. He was strong on the line after a long run like that, so he's done a good job and is probably going to be suited by further.'
Fownes also had a double with Gerald Mosse aboard Top Top Light in the fifth and Mosse in turn was back to the top of the jockeys' ladder with Almond Lee-trained Super Charge.
'He's a good hearted old horse,' Lee said of Super Charge. 'But we were lucky to win - the favourite Double Luck wasn't really suited by barrier one.' Trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong was another to get off the mark when Perfect Athlete surprised a few by leading all the way from an outside gate in the second race at 26-1 but Yip said the five-year-old has improved over the summer. 'He has been working a little bit better and concentrating much better - before he was always looking around,' Yip said.
'But he was lucky that the favourite Optic King was in barrier eleven, because he went forward and brought Perfect Athlete across with him.'
Top jockey Brett Prebble was aboard Optic King and earned the ire of the stewards' panel for coming across so quickly from the outside and inconveniencing a number of runners on his inside. Prebble was banned for two days and fined a further $40,000.
Apprentice Terry Wong Chi-wai also earned a ban after crossing over to lead from the outside on Frontier in the opening race. Wong was handed a two day holiday and $10,000 fine.