Proud dad Saint-Martin wins one for baby Lea

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am

Frenchman Eric Saint-Martin celebrated the birth of Lea, the latest addition to his family, on Friday, by winning on pony-sized Istide yesterday to bring him within sight of a riding milestone.

Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Istide was Saint-Martin's 399th career winner in Hong Kong and, while that 400 is a celebration for another day, the Frenchman is on cloud nine with the birth of his daughter, his fourth child.

'Everyone is doing well. My new daughter, Lea, and my wife Lauren are well and I'm very happy. It's with your children that you learn the meaning of real love,' Saint-Martin beamed.

Three-year-old Istide was winning for the first time at his fourth run and is getting plenty of points for attitude from the Frenchman, even if his size remains a question.

The Istidaad gelding weighs in at just 950 pounds, making him just about the smallest horse in training at Sha Tin, but good things can come in small packages as tiny Hong Kong Vase winner Vallee Enchantee showed a few years ago.

'Danny gave Istide a little bit of time to see if he would grow, he hasn't hurried him, but it hasn't happened at this stage. He is only little and he could probably do with a visit to the gym to build up,' Saint-Martin said. 'But he has a good attitude and a very big heart. He's my kind of horse because he wants to do it.'

After getting back in the field at his last couple of runs before finishing his races off strongly, Istide was much more prominent in yesterday's race despite drawing wide, facing the daylight outside the leader for the first time.

'He has learned something each time he has run and there was no problem to put him forward today,' Saint-Martin explained.

'It looked to me like there were no leaders in the race, so I wanted to be forward. If something else wanted to go, then okay, he could drop in behind but I was quite sure he would handle being put forward and he did it very professionally.'

The win for Istide maintained an old connection with owner Yeung Kwok-ki for trainer Shum.

Yeung was a long-time regular client of Shum's former boss, Ivan Allan, during his years in Hong Kong.