Sense of deja vu about Derby day for O'Sullivan
Racing lore is riddled with stories about trainers spiriting future high-class horses off to a lesser meeting for a bet, thinking them invincible, then getting a surprise.
There was the famous tale in Brisbane in the 1970s of a famous, big-betting trainer who took his future star to a low-grade race of just four runners in the country for an 'easy kill'.
He finished fourth and was left scratching his head as to how it happened until a few years later, by which time his horse had won a Group One. So had the other three.
And connections of a horse called Avancer probably walked away disappointed after running second at a lowly midweek maiden at Avondale racetrack, Auckland, in October, 2007. One of the favourites, Avancer had his chance and was found wanting as a 40-1 debutant swooped on him to beat the more experienced horse.
Little did anyone guess they would both be lining up with a shot at Group One glory at Sha Tin one day as Legend Of Colour (ex-Avancer) and Thumbs Up, in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby.
'It just shows, you never know what you'll bump into in a maiden race,' said Legend Of Colour's trainer, Paul O'Sullivan, as he hopes to land another Derby trophy to put beside the one he earned with Vital King in 2007.
'I'd say there wouldn't be a lot between the two in ability either. Perhaps Vital King had a little bit better turn of foot, but I was sure he'd run well at 2,000m and I'm equally sure this horse will run the distance right out and that can usually get you some of the prize money. He really got going late in the Derby Trial.'
Thumbs Up beat Legend Of Colour by just over a length in that maiden, then by only a half length when they next met in a Group Two contest. In the Derby Trial recently, Legend Of Colour turned that right around and beat Thumbs Up.
'If Collection hadn't appeared, I'd have thought we were in with a runner's chance and probably a month ago half a dozen trainers would have said the same,' O'Sullivan said. 'Now it's difficult not to think we are running for second, but it's still a horse race. Champions get beaten and we have to hope we have the luck and things don't go his way.'
Like Collection, Legend Of Colour is a trainer's syndicate horse and O'Sullivan's second to run in the Derby after Never Look Back in 2008.
'Had it not been a trainer's syndicate, I doubt I could have afforded Legend Of Colour. Having a syndicate structure allowed me to pay just a little more and I think it's significant - you can go for just that little bit higher-quality horse.'
Odds of Thumbs Up when he beat Legend of Colour in New Zealand in a 2007 maiden race: 40-1