Shum gets season off to a flying start
Danny Shum Chap-shing put a modest season behind him, played to his strengths and exploded back to top form with an opening day hat-trick in the final three races at Sha Tin yesterday.
Since being granted a trainer's licence in 2003, Shum has been a star at the opening meetings and although the showcase race, the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup, eluded him this year, he gained huge revenge at the business end of the afternoon.
In fact, it was a mirror image of one of the bigger days of Shum's training career - opening day in 2004 - when he prepared three winners (Just Victory, Jolly Good Fortune and Triumphant Unicorn), and ran second with Town Of Fionn in the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup.
Shum landed the Sheung Wan Handicap (race eight) for Class Two horses down the straight with High Mark ($70.50) and backed up with Quick Touch 30 minutes later in the Wan Chai Handicap over 1,400m.
Although High Mark had been well supported and Quick Touch was one of the day's best-backed runners at HK$24.00, there was negligible roll-up support into Island Super, who drifted out to $203 before steamrolling the stronger fancies in the final event under a perfect Eric Saint-Martin ride.
Shum's stable veteran, dual Group One winner Scintillation, also ran a gallant second to Enthused in the feature event after working hard in the early stages to overcome a wide alley.
Shum was thrilled at his brilliant start to the season, which promises to put his prior term result of 23 wins at 16th position on the trainers' table well and truly in the shade.
'People have criticised my performance last season but I think it was a bit harsh, because I only had 35 horses, nowhere near a full stable,' Shum said.
'Now we have a much stronger team and naturally I'm thrilled to go home with a result like we had today.'
Howard Cheng Yue-tin was the man entrusted with High Mark and Quick Touch and, typically, the leading local rider made no mistake.
'With High Mark, my feeling is that he was a bit lucky,' Shum conceded after the gelding held off a late thrust from Firm Offer. 'His trial was very disappointing, and he scoped with an excess of mucus after it. His turf gallop during the week was better, and while I hoped he could win, I had a few worries about whether he was 100 per cent.
'I think the fact that he won, given this condition, shows his quality and he's capable of winning better races.' Shum reserved the biggest wrap for Quick Touch, a New Zealand-bred gelding by the multi-purpose stallion Faltaat.
'I hope he can win another one or two and improve his rating sufficiently to be invited to the Derby - that's my aim anyway,' the trainer added.
With Volksraad gelding Island Super, yet another New Zealand-bred, Shum said it was simply a case of 'fresh is best'.
'If you go on his form at this time last year, he deserved to be one of the favourites,' Shum said.
'We probably took him a bit far last time but this preparation, I was determined to keep him fresh.
'He had a big assignment today with the 133 pounds and using a claiming apprentice is not an option because he's not a boy's horse. Eric rode him superbly and he deserves a lot of credit for the win.'
Danny Shum (below) ended the afternoon in style landing a treble at: 342-1