Aussie flu blessing in disguise for Caga Boy
Punters who were left gnashing their teeth after Caga Boy upset the match race of yesterday's Sha Tin card in the Devon Handicap (1,000m) won't take any comfort in the knowledge that the horse should not have even been in Hong Kong.
The lightly raced five-year-old has always had his share of ability as well as his share of issues, which included a heart irregularity in June and, apparently, a bone chip in a knee more recently - and that's where the story began, according to trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai.
With the connections deciding during the summer that an operation to remove the chip was required, owner Eric Tsang Chi-wai expanded that idea to having it done in New Zealand, where Caga Boy could then enjoy a good spell in a lush, green paddock afterwards.
All well and good in theory.
Then equine influenza took a hand.
The flight that was to carry Caga Boy to New Zealand had to go via Australia, which was by then under import-export lockdown due to the disease outbreak, so Caga Boy was stuck in limbo.
'Caga Boy was already in quarantine and remained there for four months,' Lui said after the 54-1 upset as the match between South China Elite and Craig's Dragon failed to materialise.
'In that time, he couldn't do much more than walking as his exercise and when he came out, the pain from the bone chip had just disappeared.'
So much so, that the whole idea of having any surgery at all was abandoned, the horse thrown straight back into his work and Lui couldn't believe how happy and free in his action Caga Boy had become.
'After the break, he seemed so well in his training that I just wanted to run him in something,' he said.
'I know he has not been a 1,000m horse before, but he has won 1,400m and as we see many times, a fresh 1,400m horse can usually run a good race up the straight 1,000m.
'He was fresh and very healthy. We were a bit lucky to have the draw in gate 14, which is usually an advantage in these races, but I am not really surprised that Caga Boy has run well.'
That was clear to most observers when they saw Howard Cheng Yue-tin's celebration past the post, and Tsang's demeanour in the winners' circle was not that of an owner who had missed out on backing his 54-1 winner, while favourite backers were wishing he had found his way to the green fields of New Zealand.
The John Moore-trained Craig's Dragon did best of the two heavily backed favourites in finishing fifth, and Moore said the three-year-old had looked sluggish in the sprint and in need of more distance.
Meanwhile, David Hall's South China Elite was eased down by Brett Prebble when the jockey told stewards he had not felt the gelding to be stretching out fully in his action.