Paul gets early Christmas present
Former Matamata trainer Paul O’Sullivan scored an early Christmas present last week when he won the biggest race of his 10-year Hong Kong tenure, the $3 million Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
Aerovelocity, the horse that brought up the big win over a field containing the best local, European and Australian sprinters, was a Kiwi-bred, and even more fittingly by Pins, the Waikato Stud stallion owned by Paul’s brother-in-law Mark Chittick. There to share the big occasion at Sha Tin win was Paul’s brother Lance, who had played a big part in securing the horse for Hong Kong. The first two weeks of December are special for Paul, with a birthday to begin with – this year’s was his 55th – followed hopefully a few days later by a lead role in Hong Kong’s biggest raceday of the year. Given the level of competition amongst local stables, combined with star performers from around the globe in town for the four international races on the card, that hasn’t always been the case.
Paul has won races on the international day undercard and has had a handful of placings in the Group One features, but for the first time this year everything fell into place. Best of all, the horse that brought up the big win was a graduate of Wexford Stables, having been purchased as a yearling and beginning his career here with a debut win that qualified him for Hong Kong.
‘‘We’re always in the market
likely sorts that could make the grade up here and he just stood out,’’ Paul recalled when I caught up with him on the dog and bone last week. ‘‘He was in the Windsor Park draft and after Lance had done the early inspections he had him marked as one we had to buy.
‘‘When I arrived at Karaka for the sales I could see why Lance liked him so much. He was one of those horses that stood out from the crowd, he had a huge physical presence.
At $120,000 the Pins colt cost more than anticipated, but now with seven wins from 14 Hong Kong starts he looks cheap. There’s plenty more on the horizon too, most likely beginning with the Dubai World Cup meeting in March.
For Paul, the win was special after a difficult year both personally and professionally. Recent seasons have lacked the firepower of his early times in Hong Kong, but with a team of more than 50 headed by Aerovelocity and promising talent coming through, he’s feeling very chirpy.
‘‘I’ve got a new assistant trainer and some good new systems in place, my clientele is very strong, and that can only improve off the back of this win,’’ he says. ‘‘ That’s how it works anywhere, but especially up here, so with a bit of luck I’ll be back at Karaka next month picking up some decent sorts.’’ *** There are some things in life you can do nothing about, one of them the weather, as we all learnt last Wednesday when the Matamata Racing Club was hit with an unseasonal weather-bomb.
Hopes of a big day on the track and a rollup crowd there to enjoy the twilight meting were dashed when the forecast for strong easterlies and rain proved right. The meeting was actually lucky to proceed after stewards expressed major concerns.
To their credit and that of jockeys, track staff and all others involved, the meeting went ahead. Just to rub it in, the sun came as the field for the last race was lining up at 7.30 but the damage had been done.
The original big fields had been decimated by numerous race morning scratchings were added to by a further 17 late scratchings after the rack was downgraded. But as already stated the conditions were out of any human control.
So on behalf of the club, well down for those who did end up winners – most of all Graham Richardson for his three – and thanks to those brave souls who did come out to play.
May you back lots of winners through the busy holiday period and we’ll hopefully see you back on course for Matamata’s first raceday of 2015, Friday January 16.
CAREER HIGH: Aerovelocity claims a career-high Hong Kong win for Paul O’Sullivan in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.