The curtain will come down on Paul O’Sullivan’s decorated training career at the end of the Hong Kong racing season next month.
Into his 18th season in Hong Kong, the 62-year-old confirmed on Thursday he will return to his native New Zealand after plotting his departure from the city for some time.
“I had this in mind four years ago and I knew two seasons ago I was going to go,” O’Sullivan said.
“Being able to work in Hong Kong for 18 years has put me in a favourable position, but it’s time to go. There’s lots of things I want to do, travel and that sort of thing, and I’m probably going to find them a little bit easier to do at 62 than 66.”
O’Sullivan will move in with his father, legendary trainer Dave – who is battling some health issues – in Matamata in New Zealand’s North Island when he first returns home.
He confirmed there is “absolutely no chance” of him training again, although he expects to be leaned on by brother Lance and his training partner Andrew Scott from time to time.
“I’ll do a lot of the sales in the southern hemisphere and if Lance wants time off or Scotty’s not there I can go to the track for a morning, drink coffee and talk to people,” he said.
“I’ll have to learn to play golf, when you work with horses all your life you lack a few skills – I can’t pick up a tennis racket or a badminton racket.”
O’Sullivan officially informed his owners of his impending departure this week and has 33 horses in his stable that will need new homes.
Shadow Runner’s success at Happy Valley on Wednesday night was O’Sullivan’s 512th in the city, a tally he has 12 meetings to add to before he sails off into the sunset.
“Over 500 winners is really good, it’s a nice solid number,” he said. “The best thing that has ever happened to me is coming here to work, by a mile. My biggest thrills in racing I’ve had here in Hong Kong.
“And another thing about Hong Kong is that, in my 18 years here, I’ve never shook my head at a decision made. I’ve never walked out of the inquiry room thinking ‘I wonder where that came from’.”
An 11-time champion trainer in New Zealand before making the move to Sha Tin, many of O’Sullivan’s biggest Hong Kong victories came thanks to superb sprinter Aerovelocity.
Aerovelocity won the Hong Kong Sprint in 2014 and 2016, while he also has a Centenary Sprint Cup on his CV and was twice successful overseas in the 2014-15 season – first in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Japan and then in the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore.
“I think the biggest thrill I ever got out of winning a race was in Japan with him,” said O’Sullivan, who boasts the likes of the Cox Plate and the Japan Cup on his glittering resume.
O’Sullivan also won the 2007 Hong Kong Derby with Vital King and took out the 2010 Stewards’ Cup with Fellowship.