The man who developed the legendary Black Caviar, Melbourne’s leading horse trainer Peter Moody answered a call from owner Tung Moon-fai in the Australian spring of 2014 and the tale of two Tan Tats began.
Most of Tung’s horses in Hong Kong race with the branding of “Jewellery” in their names but down under they are all called Tan Tat something and Moody had two three-year-olds in his barn at the time bred and raced by the Tung family.
“Mr Tung is always keen to find one for Hong Kong if he has a permit and, if his own horses aren’t suitable, he gets me to keep an eye out for something that is,” Moody said yesterday.
“But, at that time, he had Tan Tat Sun and Tan Tat Diamond who both looked horses with a future after just a few starts and he wanted one for Hong Kong.
“I couldn’t split them but Tan Tat Diamond had already won at Geelong and Flemington, so he was the better performed horse and I thought Johnny Size would take him. He hadn’t seen either of them in the flesh, but he obviously saw something he liked in the chestnut and chose him instead.”
Moody said Tan Tat Diamond “went off the boil” later, looking dependent on soft going to do his best and was eventually exiled to do his racing, down a grade, in Brisbane.
The chestnut got a name change at Size’s Sha Tin stables and now, as Sun Jewellery, is on the verge of making professional era history as the first horse to win all the four-year-old classics and the first BMW Hong Kong Derby winner to have been bred by his owner.
Looking back, Size says there was no mystery to his choice.
“The Snitzel horse had run a good sectional getting beaten in a race in the city, the other one looked a bit one-paced, even though he had won in town. I don’t think Mr Tung agreed with my choice because Sun Jewellery’s wins had been at Bairnsdale and Kyneton, country tracks, but the choice was black or white to me,” Size said.
“Of course, then it became more complicated because Sun Jewellery was broken winded. But the way I looked at that, he was racing well with it, he had some acceleration, so I thought maybe he’d be able to win a few races here before the breathing came against him.
“Eventually it will – any condition does. Whether it’s horses or people, as you get older, it doesn’t get better, it gets worse, but it hasn’t stopped him yet.”
Moody recalls Sun Jewellery as a “nice horse I hadn’t got to the bottom of”, but a 2,000m horse?
“Honestly, I would have said sprinter-miler, probably 1,400m his trip. Mr Tung breeds a few from mares that are all from that same family and the family has been very kind to him,” Moody explained. “In fact, I’ve just run one today at Moonee Valley whose mother is a half-sister to Sun Jewellery and he has ability, too, but they have generally been sprinters.
“That said, you can never be 100 per cent sure about them running a distance by their pedigree and, from afar, it’s hard for me to assess Sun Jewellery as a Derby horse.
“When they’re running amongst their own group, you have to ask whether he runs a distance because he really does run it, or can he run it just because he’s got a class edge.”