Tsui gets off the mark with a double - and a novelty win from the saddle
Me Tsui Yu-sak bounced into the new season the same way he completed the old one, and spiced up a winning double as a trainer with a novelty win from the saddle.
Tsui, who tips the scales at a mere 105 pounds, was one of three trainers who stepped up for the Trainers' Ride for Charity and was rewarded for his courage when Bodacious scored a narrow win from Derek Cruz on Bobo Win. The margin was a short head.
The HK$400,000 of prize money donated by the Jockey Club is all destined for charities nominated by the participants, and Tsui's share - HK$200,000 - is headed for the United Nations Children's Education Fund (Unicef).
'I feel much the same as I felt last year after this race, even though this time I've won,' said a breathless Tsui, who was on the speedy General Kingy in the inaugural edition of the straight 800m race last year, but was tipped out by Derek Cruz and John Moore.
'I'm just happy to be able to contribute the HK$200,000 first prize to Unicef. I was always within a length of Derek and I was happy with how he was galloping. He hung a little in the finish so I gave him a tap with the whip and he just got up.
'It was quite a workout for me, but more of a barrier trial for the horse,' Tsui added with a laugh.
Once the real racing began, Tsui quickly set about demonstrating that his crackerjack 2007-08 season was anything but a fluke. He landed the season opener with 11-1 shot Supreme Dragon, a recently transferred horse who had never placed from eight previous attempts.
Tsui then unveiled perhaps the most dramatic metamorphosis of the summer, with Lucky Quality (5-1) throwing off his maiden status in spectacular fashion to take the Causeway Bay Handicap by 31/2 lengths.
Jockey Olivier Doleuze summed up the general feeling when he described Lucky Quality's transformation as 'amazing'.
The four-year-old had trialled like a superstar on the all-weather track, running a brilliant time and scoring by eight lengths. But Doleuze still harboured reservations along the lines of 'too good to be true'.
'But I knew after 200 metres, this was the same horse that I rode in the trial, he was never going to be beaten,' Doleuze said. 'I am so happy to start the season this way - last year it took me 18 meetings to ride my first winner but this time I am on my way first day out.'
Doleuze's compatriot Eric Saint-Martin was the pilot for Supreme Dragon, and said the gelding showed surprising finishing speed for a Class Five animal.
'Tsui has gone a great job with this horse and, once again, you can see he is a very good horseman,' Saint-Martin observed.
Saint-Martin's perfectly-timed late thrust on Island Super in the final event also garnered him the Jockey Challenge, landing the odds for his followers at fixed price of HK$20. With two wins and two seconds and a third, Saint-Martin gained 40 points in the Challenge pointscore to defeat Darren Beadman by two points.