Speedy. Oh, Speedy. How could you make a man look like such a fool, over and over again?
Caspar Fownes’ Speedygonzalez, that cheeky son of Towkay, demonstrated once more on Wednesday night one of the most crucial lessons about Hong Kong racing: never call a horse a “non winner”.
Non winners induce insanity. They keep tantalising you, deceptively promising more next time, but never quite getting there until they strike when you least expect it. It sounds a bit like a dodgy relationship – and so it is with that scoundrel Speedy.
Speedygonzalez may have been named after the yellow sombrero-touting “fastest mouse in all of Mexico” of Looney Tunes fame, but the equine namesake hardly matched the “fastest” superlative.
A New Zealand maiden winner when named Positivenergy, he took a few runs to acclimatise but he finally found form, as most horses do. In 11 runs from June to January – with the end of season break in the middle – he finished in the top five on every occasion, and he was never more than four lengths from the winner. But he just couldn’t break through for his first Hong Kong victory.
Indeed, after the last of those performances – when Speedygonzalez matched Golden Addiction until the 50m before tamely giving way – he ended up in the sin bin with Call Me Achiever, Me Tsui Yu-sak’s speedy plodder who proved a frustration for punters early in the season with placing after placing.
My boss tried to warn me the tide would turn – there is no such thing as a non winner in Hong Kong. Did I listen? Of course not. But there should have been a warning sign when Joao Moreira replaced Andreas Suborics, and the alarms should have been ringing when he was well-backed for a special conditions Class Four over 1,650m at Happy Valley. The blinkers were back on the cheek pieces were off. But no, he’s a non winner. Surely not . . .
Of course, Murphy’s law insisted that when one of the sin-bin horses started firing, both would make their mark. Call Me Achiever somehow managed back-to-back wins in the same period, and my notion of a non-winner was shot to pieces. Incredibly, in the five Happy Valley meetings between February 12 and March 12, either Speedygonzalez (three) or Call Me Achiever (two) won.
Welcome to Hong Kong, where the rating system effectively means every horse has a race it can win, somewhere along the line. Eventually, a horse’s rating will drop to a point below its ability and they can win again. Well, almost every horse.
I’m sceptical the lowest-rated horse, Tsui’s Vajra Throne (on a rating of 0), will be able to find a race. But will I declare it cannot win? Never.
As for our old mate Speedy, he’s now been catapulted from near the bottom of Class Four up into Class Two after two further wins. The once camera-shy galloper now knows where the line is, his last two wins coming right in the shadows of the post. His consistency is rare in Hong Kong, and you can’t help but admire the horse – no matter how much of an idiot he’s made of me.
With Wednesday night’s win, Speedygonzalez joined Divine Ten and Majestic Anthem as the only horses to win five races this season (Able Friend, Designs On Rome, Gold-Fun and eight others have won four). And there’s no reason to suggest he can’t win near the bottom of Class Two, joining that rare club who have won six races in a season.
In fact, forget the statue of Silent Witness at Sha Tin. I think the Jockey Club should look at investing in a shrine to Speedygonzalez in the Beer Garden, as a simple reminder that – when everything comes together – nothing’s impossible in horse racing.
Thanks, Speedy. You’ve taught me a valuable lesson early. Andale!