An emotional Paul O’Sullivan waved goodbye to Hong Kong with a winner as Frankie Lor Fu-chuen picked up his first trainers’ championship at Sha Tin on Saturday.
O’Sullivan was taken aback by not only his own reaction but that of the crowd and jockey Zac Purton after Turquoise Alpha sent him back to New Zealand on a high after saluting in the Class Four Solar Hei Hei Handicap (1,800m).
“It surprised me as I got very emotional and I had about 1,000 selfies with the crowd,” O’Sullivan said.
“I made the mistake of walking through the [crowd] there and said a lot of goodbyes to a lot of people I didn’t know. It’s been very good. It’s nice to know that I’m, well I wouldn’t say liked, but not disliked.”
O’Sullivan is usually not the most animated after a win but was in good form after helping his good friend Purton to a fifth championship.
“I thought the horse would run well. He’s been a bit inconsistent but the fact that Zac acted as if he’d won the Derby and gave me a big hug makes it a special day,” he said.
“I didn’t think I’d get this emotional. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races and I just win them, nod and walk out of the weighing room. Normally you win a race, that’s nice and you move on, but this was the last day.
“Zac and I have had a wonderful association and the fact that it meant so much to Zac was very good.”
O’Sullivan is leaving the city on a high and with his runners in good form and is delighted to be leaving with happy memories.
“Of course, I’ll miss the place but it’s certainly not the place I want to retire,” O’Sullivan said.
“It’s a good time to go home and I’m just really happy that the last three months have been really successful. I’m glad I’m not going out kicking stones. The last three months have probably been as good as any three months I’ve had here.
“When I came to Hong Kong, I kept in touch with everyone in New Zealand that I knew through phone calls and other means as I knew that I would go home one day and I didn’t what people to say ‘who are you? I haven’t seen you for a long time’.
“I’d like to think I’ll do the same with people in Hong Kong, even if it’s ‘merry Christmas’ or ‘happy Chinese New Year’, I’ll definitely keep in touch.”
As O’Sullivan departed the stage, Lor’s first trainers’ championship became official and the 56-year-old is poised to be a major player for years to come.
Going into the meeting Lor had all but secured victory and after his closest rival John Size drew a blank in the first few races, Lor could begin his celebrations.
“I need to thank the Jockey Club first, I joined the club in 1981 and have been there for 41 years, and the owners have been really supportive,” Lor said.
“At this moment I have only had a trainers’ licence for five years and to get the championship this season, I’m really happy because I’m a local trainer and it means the local trainers can also get the championship.”