Zezao now has a happy spring to his step
The transformation of one-time head-case Zezao from highly strung handful to back-to-back winner is a credit to rookie trainer Richard Gibson, according to jockey Jeff Lloyd.
Lloyd, who grabbed a double, partnered the once maligned galloper to a Class Two win, showing off the five-year-old's new-found tractability and race sense.
Before he entered Gibson's yard, Zezao was a punters' nightmare, his obvious natural ability shadowed by an even greater ability to find a way to get beat through erratic behaviour.
Yesterday the horse showed tactical speed when required, relaxed and then sprinted away to win by 21/2 lengths in a manner which suggests more wins will be in store.
'You've got to take your hat off to a great training performance, to get a horse like this to behave,' Lloyd said. 'He has just settled him down. you can see it in his mannerisms, he is a happy horse. Sure, he might have as soft mouth if they ease the pace, but the horse is just so happy.'
It was a heads-up ride from Lloyd, who took an opportunity to steal ground along the fence after being slow away and gained the box-seat. The test then was whether Zezao, who previously would have tried to climb over horses in front, would settle after getting the early dig.
'I've had to ride him for a furlong-and-a-half, dig him up to get that spot and normally he won't come back to you after that,' Lloyd said. 'But he came straight back to me and in the box seat, put his head down, relaxed and then quickened.'
The more genuine tempo up in grade also helped Zezao, a good sign for future success, as is the horse's ability to get further than yesterday's 1,400m.
As usual, Gibson was modest and pushing praise on to the winning rider. 'It was a top shelf ride from Jeff, it's a pleasure to be working with these absolute professionals in Hong Kong,' he said. 'It wasn't a surprise to see this horse in the winner's enclosure once again, he has improved and is in good mental shape.'