Tsui repays owner's good faith as Belong To Casa revels in dirt switch
Me Tsui Yu-sak was on the receiving end of a huge compliment from Wu Wei Lam when selected to be the new trainer of Belong To Casa and took no time in vindicating the owner's good judgment.
Tsui landed a first-up gamble when Belong To Casa led throughout to land the Class Four sprint (race three) on last night's all-dirt card at Sha Tin and the local horseman was quick to deflect the kudos for the victory.
Even though Belong To Casa had been unsuccessful in 13 tries for Tony Cruz and was suddenly one-for-one for the Tsui yard, the trainer said the key lay in the mysteries of the all-weather surface.
'When I first got this horse, I was actually quite worried,' Tsui said. 'I thought to myself, what on earth can I do that Tony Cruz cannot do, after all he's one of the best trainers in Hong Kong.
'The answer I came up with was to try the dirt, because all of his starts with Tony had been on the turf - I just had to try something different.
'Behind the scenes, however, there was some very nice horsemanship from my riding boys in the stable. They've been teaching him to get his head down and relax a bit more, and I'm sure that's helped the efficiency of his breathing.'
Brett Prebble was the new rider for Belong To Casa and it was obvious at the halfway mark that the Australian-bred racer would be the one to beat, as Prebble had him leading unchallenged and travelling sweetly.
Tsui made it a double and took training honours for the night when Silver Sun (Matthew Chadwick) led throughout to win the highest-grade race on the programme, the Lung Kong Handicap for Class Two horses over 1,650m.
'I've sensed for a while that Silver Sun was getting close to another win, because on a rating of 86 as he was tonight, he's very well graded on his best form,' Tsui said. 'With Matthew taking off 10 pounds, it was the same as him being a 76 rater. Matthew has ridden him well, I've been very impressed with his riding and his judgment of pace.'
Caspar Fownes welcomed the win of Achilles of Troy (Olivier Doleuze) in the night's trophy race, the Lok Sin Tong Cup (1,200m), and promised it won't be the last for the well-bred son of Danehill Dancer.
'If he had drawn a decent barrier [instead of 11 out of 11] I'd have been very confident,' Fownes said. 'He's taken a while to get the idea and to learn to settle, but he's finally starting to put it all together. He's been three deep all the way tonight but he's blown them away at the finish.
'Although this was on dirt tonight, he's run second to Happy Zero on the turf so we don't have any doubts about going back to the grass with him.'
The 18-year-old Chadwick took riding honours, with Silver Sun being the completion of a double that began with Supremacy for David Ferraris in the second event.
Chadwick's figures show no sign of being watered down - he has now had 15 wins from 92 rides at a strike rate of 16.3 per cent.
Brett Prebble was the only jockey to fall foul of the stewards, and didn't take the rap lying down. Prebble pleaded not guilty to a charge of careless riding emanating from the final event, in which he rode third-placed Speedy for Paul O'Sullivan.
Stewards found against Prebble and suspended him for two days, as well as levying a fine of HK$40,000 in lieu of one extra race day. However, with firm commitments right through till the Derby on March 22, Prebble will remain in action for the next few weeks before missing the fixtures of March 28 and April 1.