O’Sul­li­vans make his­tory

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - DEN­NIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

It’s more than 25 years since Hor­licks cre­ated rac­ing his­tory by win­ning the Ja­pan Cup, but that hasn’t less­ened the par­al­lels that have been drawn fol­low­ing the week­end win of Aerov­e­loc­ity in the Taka­mat­sunomiya Ki­nen in Ja­pan.

The ob­vi­ous com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is the name O’Sul­li­van, Hor­licks hav­ing been a mem­ber of the fa­mous Wex­ford Sta­bles op­er­a­tion es­tab­lished by Dave O’Sul­li­van and Aerov­e­loc­ity trained by Dave’s son and for­mer train­ing part­ner Paul.

When Hor­licks ran a world record time for 2400 me­tres to win the Ja­pan Cup in 1989, the stake of $5 mil­lion made it the rich­est horse race in the world. Last Sun­day’s race over half that dis­tance wasn’t of the same mag­ni­tude in mon­e­tary terms, but with a stake of $2.5m and as a Group One race in the Global Sprint Chal­lenge se­ries it still rates highly in in­ter­na­tional terms.

The cel­e­bra­tions that fol­lowed tran­scended three coun­tries – in Ja­pan where Paul O’Sul­li­van and Hong Kong- based Aus­tralian jockey Zac Pur­ton were joined by owner Daniel Ye­ung and his 30- strong en­tourage, in Hong Kong where Aerov­e­loc­ity was lauded as the first horse to travel to Ja­pan and win the pres­ti­gious race, and in New Zealand where Dave and Lance O’Sul­li­van were joined by breed­ers Wind­sor Park Stud, where the horse was bred, and Waikato Stud, the home of his sire Pins. Lance and Paul had joined forces back in 2010 to buy Aerov­e­loc­ity at the Karaka year­ling sales, go­ing be­yond bud­get to se­cure the im­pres­sive bay for $120,000 and then set­ting a plan to pre­pare him for a Hong Kong ca­reer. The break­through wasn’t to come for an­other two years, when the horse by now known as Naisoso War­rior won on de­but on An­zac Day, 2012.

Aerov­e­loc­ity capped his ca­reer un­der Paul O’Sul­li­van with victory in the Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Sprint at Sha Tin last De­cem­ber. That’s when the plan was made to set him for last Sun­day’s big Ja­panese sprint and he sealed a start with a close sec­ond in his fi­nal lead-up. When Hor­licks de­parted on her Ja­pan Cup mission in late 1989 she was step­ping into largely un­charted ter­ri­tory, and it was a crown­ing achieve­ment for the Wex­ford Sta­bles team when she claimed the big race. The trip from Hong Kong to Ja­pan ear­lier this month was a whole lot eas­ier for Aerov­e­loc­ity but still with its chal­lenges, in­volv­ing time in quar­an­tine on ar­rival in Tokyo and then a nine-hour float trip to Chukyo race­course, near the city of Nagoya.

‘‘Luck­ily he’s one of those horses that is happy with his own com­pany,’’ said Paul, ‘‘but he had to cope with a lot of travel in a strange en­vi­ron­ment and a big drop in tem­per­a­ture. He’s tough though, not just in his rac­ing the way he fights but also in his gen­eral be­hav­iour.’’

An in­side bar­rier draw was wel­comed when the field for the Taka­mat­sunomiya Ki­nen was fi­nalised, but come race­day when rain be­gan to fall the ta­bles were turned in favour of horses draw wide and not hav­ing to race on the in­side sec­tion of the track. In his usual style Aerov­e­loc­ity made a good start and raced on the speed, but with the track near the rail badly chopped up, other run­ners be­gan to im­prove around him near­ing the home turn.

‘‘Zac said he was gone on the turn, he was go­ing nowhere,’’ said Paul.

‘‘Then he got him out wider to the top of the rise where the track was firmer and he picked him­self up. Ev­ery stride got bet­ter and he wore them down. It was a great re­sult.

‘‘At the press con­fer­ence af­ter­wards I felt pretty proud as the only Kiwi there to hear them say that DJ and I are the only fa­ther and son train­ers to win Group One races in Ja­pan,’’ O’Sul­li­van added.

Paul will wait for the dust to set­tle be­fore con­firm­ing his next move.

‘‘There’s a $1m bonus for the Global Sprint Chal­lenge win­ner, so we would prob­a­bly like to get him to Sin­ga­pore for the KrisF­lyer Sprint.

‘‘As it stands he’s al­ready done a huge job. With this win on top of the Hong Kong Sprint I imag­ine he’s the world’s high­est rated sprinter and there’s any num­ber of op­tions for him com­ing up.

‘‘Right now we’ll just en­joy this one.’’

Photo: NZ RAC­ING DESK

Flanked by Ja­pan Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Masayuki Goto and Hong Kong Jockey Club direc­tor of rac­ing Bill Nader, Paul O’Sul­li­van shows off the tro­phy won by his star sprinter Aerov­e­loc­ity.

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