It might indeed be you, Ms Tang

Vicky Tang finds bargain horse could make her first woman owner in 40 years to win big race

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 5:52am

Vicky Tang is just happy to have a runner in Hong Kong's most prestigious race, but she is still hopeful of another against-the-odds victory for her horse, It Has To Be You, in Sunday's HK$16 million BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin.

Tang could become the first woman owner to win the Derby in 40 years, with a horse that was a longshot winner at his last start and a relative bargain buy compared to many of his blueblood rivals.

"We're already happy that this has come true, but we'll be happier if it can win the race as well," said Tang.

We're already happy that this has come true, but we'll be happier if it can win the race as well

To put things in perspective, the race favourite for the Derby, Akeed Mofeed, cost a rumoured HK$20 million and many of his rivals would have cost as much as HK$8 million or more. It Has To Be You was bought from a New Zealand breeder - after the horse failed to sell at auction - for less than HK$200,000.

It Has To Be You stunned experts last month by winning the traditional lead-up to the Derby, the Hong Kong Classic Cup, at odds of 125-to-one. So little wonder Tang is philosophical about Sunday's result.

"There are many things that are not under our control in a horse race," the 40-year-old businesswoman said. "I don't think about whether my horse will win the Derby or not. I think it's OK if it can bring its skill into full play."

Tang has raced horses for the past 13 years, following her father - owner Tony Tang Wai-bun - into the Hong Kong Jockey Club's exclusive ownership ranks. She is one of 174 female owners, outweighed by 1,141 men.

It Has To Be You is one of three horses owned or part-owned by Tang - and she spends around HK$70,000 per month on her beloved steeds.

Despite raking back some cash in winnings lately and a potential HK$9 million windfall if successful on Sunday, Tang says what she gains from the sport is far more important than prize money. "I have become more patient and not stubborn. Things [in life] do not always turn out as we expect, as in a horse race," she said.

The Derby is known as the "once-in-a-lifetime race", as the event - first held at Happy Valley in 1873 - is open only to four-year-olds.

But once It Has To Be You has finished his racing career, he can expect a lavish retirement - Tang says she treats her horses as family. She still visits her retired horses Noble Dancer, in New Zealand, and Noble Boss in Hong Kong.