Crystal sparkles for Me at 37th time of asking
After 36 winless starts, all Crystal needed for that breakthrough victory was to meet an even bigger loser. And it all happened yesterday when quinella specialist King Of Fish was the only one to give chase.
King Of Fish, these days prepared by Manfred Man Ka-leung, has finished in the first three 28 times, but only twice as a winner - the latest in January, 2004.
So when the nine-year-old was the only viable alternative to Crystal when Howard Cheng Yue-tin steered that gelding's head for home, fate had finally dealt Crystal's owners, Tse Chiu-kwan and his wife, a winning hand and the Fish had to be satisfied with being second for the 19th time.
Crystal was the middle-pin of a hat-trick for Me Tsui Yu-sak (pictured), with the understated horseman continuing an exemplary season with the winners of races four, five and six.
Tsui has had Crystal for only the past couple of months and has once again worked wonders with an underperforming animal. Under Tsui's tutelage, Crystal has now raced five times for a win, two seconds, a third and a fifth, earning a cheque at every appearance for the new yard.
'I know he has the record of a horse who has found it difficult to win, but I did think today's race with restricted conditions [for Class Four horses that had not won this season] would be something easier for him,' Tsui said.
'I also asked the jockey to take him to the front this time because I wasn't sure he enjoyed chasing so much at his previous start.
'With a horse like this, who has never won for so long, it's hard to be confident. But I did think he was looking and feeling well, and that he would go close to winning - with a little bit of luck.'
Earlier, Gerald Mosse had ridden his signature patient race on Tsui's Tale Of Friendship to win the Class Five over 1,650 metres on the dirt.
'When I looked through this race, most of the horses were veterans of Class Five and this horse, at least, is still young - only a three-year-old,' Tsui said.
'The race looked like there would be a strong pace, or I hoped there would be, and that has really suited him. Gerald has been patient with him early and strong in the finish.'
Tsui completed his treble when stayer On Shan Brave made his long-awaited graduation with a victory in the Parkes Handicap (1,800 metres).
'He's just another one of these northern hemisphere horses that has taken a long time to acclimatise,' Tsui said, borrowing heavily from the John Moore vocabulary.
'His last run was better, but I felt that he ran a bit too freely in front so I asked young Thomas [Yeung Kai-tong] to tuck him in behind, and he followed my instructions perfectly.
'With a little luck, he might go on and be another Wong's Favourite,' the trainer added, referring to another of his northern hemisphere horses who has also overcome modest beginnings to win four races.