Me Tsui Yu-sak is known as “King of the Dirt” in Hong Kong so it was only appropriate he was the star of Wednesday night’s all-weather track meeting, collecting his 500th career winner as part of a double.
The 58-year-old is one of the more understated trainers at Sha Tin, but he is also one of the most consistent, with his win total at the end of every season hovering around 40.
Tsui is a hard worker and uses the system to his advantage – he has more runners in a season than most – but there are no airs or graces about him.
He is a former apprentice jockey who rode 21 winners in the early 80s – it is there that his nickname “Amigo” proved too difficult for some and where the shortened “Me” comes from – before obtaining his training licence in 2005 and going on to do his best work on the dirt.
He continued to prove that on Wednesday night, with Sky Treasure (Derek Leung Ka-chun) prevailing in the Class Four Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1,200m) to register his 500th win and then backing it up a race later with Exponents (Grant van Niekerk) in the Class Five Silvermine Bay Handicap (1,200m).
To provide a snapshot of his success on the surface, this season he’s had 12 dirt winners from just 73 runners, compared with 22 wins from 372 starters on the turf.
In 2017-18, he had 15 victories from 98 runners on the all-weather track, as opposed to 25 from 429 on the grass.
He doesn’t know why he is so good on the dirt and he has no interest in trying to analyse it.
Tsui doesn’t enjoy the limelight that comes with being a trainer in Hong Kong – he declined a television interview to acknowledge the milestone while being very self-deprecating when quickly addressing the media afterwards.
“My 500th winner is not a very big achievement when John Moore has over 1,000 more,” said Tsui, as matter of fact as ever.
He praised Leung’s ride on Sky Treasure: “Derek was very aggressive holding onto his position on the rail, that made the difference and he won well.”
And was shocked when Exponents saluted at $22 in his first run back from an injury: “He’s been off the scene for six months because of a hairline so it was a big surprise.”
That is Tsui in a nutshell.
Outside the man of the moment, the race for the trainers’ championship continues to heat up with the top three contenders all tasting success.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen had a double with Glorious Artist and Coby Oppa, Moore kept up his good run of form when Buddies took out the opening race while John Size captured the last with Ping Hai Treasure. Size has 61 winners for the term, Lor is on 55 while Moore has 54.
Glorious Artist had been knocking on the door but finally broke through when he landed Class Two Cafeteria Handicap (1,650m).
“He’s been so close to winning a race, but this time he was lucky there wasn’t a full field and he had a good draw and he won easily,” Lor said. “There’s not many dirt races for him, he can handle the turf but we’ll wait and see what the programme says.”
Glorious Artist was ridden by Zac Purton, with the jockey completing a double after leading all the way on Buddies, who relished the wet conditions.
“He got to the front, set his own speed and was able to really enjoy the rhythm he was in,” Moore said. “At the turn I thought there was only one horse sitting in behind who might be able to overhaul him, but my fellow had plenty in the tank.
“He’s a progressive type because he’s still not focused. Zac said there are more wins to come once he just settles down and becomes a racehorse.”
Karis Teetan (General Dino and Coby Oppa) and Joao Moreira (Grand Harbour and Ping Hai Treasure) also collected doubles.
There was a scare in the last race of the night when Gameplayer Emperor came down in the straight, sending Leung into the dirt, but he was able to walk to the ambulance while complaining of a sore shoulder.