For most that have backed Masquerader throughout a frustrating 50-start career, the eight-year-old’s retirement couldn’t come fast enough – and if it weren’t for a reprieve from trainer Andreas Schutz, the gelding wouldn’t have had his triumphant final bow on Friday.
Masquerader’s retirement papers were already filled out, signed and about to be lodged – and that was before being beaten 17 lengths last start – but after that, Schutz convinced owner Leung Kai-fai to give the gelding one more chance.
“He had run 48 times and we were in the parade ring for his last start and I asked Mr Leung why he wanted to retire him after 49 starts – he was still healthy, so why not give him one more run and give him a chance at 50?” Schutz said after the one-time Australian Group Two winner was an unpopular 35-1 winner of a lowly Class Five.
“Actually, Mr Leung wanted to retire him halfway through the season, but I said, ‘Mr. Leung, he is still healthy and he has still got a win in him’ – although admittedly a lot of things have to go his way for that to happen.”
In the end Masquerader only just scraped home by a head under desperate riding from Alex Lai Hoi-wing, scoring over the same 1,400m he was able to notch a first local win earlier in the term.
Unless Leung has a change of heart, Masquerader will end his Hong Kong career the winner of two from 50, having started on a rating of 92 and finishing last in Fay Fay’s 2012 Hong Kong Derby.
So what happened between a Group Two win as a two-year-old, a solid three-year-old campaign in Australia and arrival at Sha Tin? Schutz said the issues for Masquerader had never been physical ones.
“The vets are never happy with him, because of the way he walks and trots, but the problem is up here,” Schutz said, pointing to his head. “It’s just a matter of whether the horse wants to try on the day or not. Today was just his day, he got that second win – I am glad that he did it in what will be his last race.”
The win gave Schutz 10 wins with two meetings to go in the season. leaving him five short of the 15 he requires to avoid a licensing committee show cause hearing in the off-season.