Jacky Chan Cheung-ming was not really into horses at first, but his 80-year-old father and veteran horse owner Chan Hee Chun got him hooked. 'My interest in horses was really triggered when Floral Joy won the Millennium Cup,' he said. 'Then my parents invited me to go to horse auctions in Hong Kong and Australia, and now I am completely addicted.' Floral Joy was under the names of Jacky's three brothers, but all of the Chan family members have joint custody of each other's horses, including a near Derby legend Floral Pegasus. Near, because it was a nose short of becoming Hong Kong's first four-year-old triple-crown Derby winner in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby last month. 'Everyone thought it had won after it crossed the finishing line and they cheered, but when the announcement of a photo [finish] came everyone went silent for five seconds,' Jacky recalled. Vital King was announced the winner. 'I would be lying to say I wasn't disappointed,' said Jacky. 'It would have been better if he had lost by many lengths, but to be so close and then beaten by a horse's nose was devastating. 'Now every Derby is going to remind us of this. I was thinking of giving a legendary victory to my father as a gift, now it has become a regret!' Chan senior, however, showed nothing but forgiveness. 'Floral Pegasus was not a 2,000-metre runner; for it to have come as far as this was already incredible,' he said. Before the fateful race, Floral Pegasus had made steady progress from running 1,200m races to 1,800m, so it was only natural that both the Chans and trainer Tony Cruz wanted to give the race a go. 'I guess we were a little carried away,' the younger Chan said. Had Floral Pegasus succeeded in becoming a triple-crown winner, his stud value would have shot through the roof, probably far exceeding legendary Lucky Owners' syndication deal of HK$60 million. But both Chans said money was not the issue. 'Horses are a personal passion to us. We treat them like family. Some trainers make the horses race two times a week, but I don't agree with it,' Chan senior said. 'The horses are like children to us,' his son added. 'I changed trainers once because he was working my horse too hard. We don't allow the jockey and trainer to whip our horses. 'We believe that to make a horse a good runner we should get it into racing, like getting a child into a hobby. 'If you whip it, it gets startled and distracted and it might end up not performing well.' The whole family mourned when Floral Joy had to be put down after he injured itself badly after leg surgery. 'I miss him very much. His galloping motions are still very clear in my head,' Jacky said. And then there was the mischievous child called Floral Dynamite, who escaped from his mafoo once and ran on his own on the racecourse for five laps. 'I am sure it had broken all records. When Cruz told me the horse came back without injuries, I thought to myself, 'We have a 2,400m champion on our hands!',' Jacky said. But Floral Dynamite proved to be too much of a lord of his own. He had the speed, Jacky said, but did not want to work hard. 'He would lead and lead and then, before finishing, would just slow down. He is too smart, when he felt tired he just wanted to stop,' Jacky said. Floral Dynamite is now living a good life in a small stud farm in Australia. The Chan family also owns, among others, Floral Nirvana, Floral Star and Fokine. Although the Chans have become veteran horse owners, they say luck still plays the biggest role in choosing horses. 'I'd say 70 per cent of it is guesswork, and then it takes the right training. I was once told a story by a champion trainer, that he was asked by horse owners to choose sure-fire Derby winners for them, to which he said, 'Can you go into a kindergarten and pick out a future Liu Xiang?',' Jacky said. 'I thought it was well said. You could have a bright and strong child, but there's no guarantee of a successful adult.' But win or lose, Jacky said the family was having fun. 'So many people felt for us when Floral Pegasus lost last month, and they came up after wanting to console us but were too afraid to bring the topic up,' he said. 'We lost that race, but we had won many friends.'