O’Sullivan successfully rounding off HK season

Paul O’Sullivan
Paul O’Sullivan (left) with Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. Photo credit: HKJC

Paul O’Sullivan is following his stable’s fortunes over the final few racedays in Hong Kong during his annual fortnight visit back home to Matamata.

A win at Sha Tin on Sunday by Wayfoong Charmer (by Dream Ahead), has taken O’Sullivan’s tally for the season to 25 wins and almost HK$32 million (NZ$6.1 million) in prizemoney and there’s the prospect of more success by the conclusion of the final day of the Hong Kong season next Sunday. “It’s been another successful season and we’ll have runners again next weekend,” O’Sullivan said. “I started the season off with a lot of new ones, plus most of them were too high in the grades. It took a while to get going, but then we hit our straps. “The vast number of our winners have been in the last bit of the season.”

O’Sullivan has also uncovered some very promising gallopers, Band Of Brothers, a four-year-old son of Sakhee’s Secret, and Chicken Dance, a three-year-old by Hinchinbrook. “They’re both emerging types who could go on to do very well next season,” he said. Band of Brothers has had five starts for three wins and a second, and signed off with a win over 1600m at Sha Tin on June 2, while Chicken Dance won the last of his three starts.

A relative newcomer to O’Sullivan’s team is Pakistan Star (Shamardal), who was a top performer for Tony Cruz. He consecutively won the Group 1 QE II Cup (2000m) and the Group 1 Champions and Chaters Cup (2400m) in 2018 after being runner-up in the 2017 QE II Cup. He has had three starts for O’Sullivan for a third to the world’s top-rated miler and New Zealand- bred galloper Beauty Generation in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m), a fifth in Group 1 QE II Cup and fourth in the Group 1 Champions and Chater Cup (2400m) on May 26. “He hasn’t been rounding it off like he used to,” O’Sullivan said. “I don’t think he gets the trip any more so I’ll bring him back to sprinting next season and see how he goes.”

O’Sullivan was dealt a severe blow with the death of potential star Win Beauty Win, a son of Makfi who recorded four wins, two seconds and a fourth from seven starts and earned HK$4.7 million (NZ$900,000) in prizemoney. “He was potentially the best horse I’ve had, but he got killed in an accident,” O’Sullivan said. “He would have been favourite when they framed the early market for the (Hong Kong) Derby (2000m). I won the Derby (in 2007) with Vital King and he was potentially better.” Vital King began his career in New Zealand with Mark Todd and notched two wins and a third to Wahid in the 2005 Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Otaki before heading to O’Sullivan’s Hong Kong barn.

Win Beauty Win also started his career in New Zealand, winning his only trial at Cambridge when prepared by O’Sullivan’s brother, Lance, and Andrew Scott, who have provided a constant supply of talented gallopers to O’Sullivan’s Hong Kong operation over the years. “A vast number of my good horses come from here,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a huge asset to me.”

O’Sullivan has been in Hong Kong for 15 years and admits it was hard work getting established in the initial years, though Vital King’s Derby win helped as did Fellowship, whose wins included the 2010 Group 1 Stewards’Cup (1600m). “I was in the right place at the right time to get a license in Hong Kong and I’m very fortunate to be there,” he said. “I’m lucky that Aerovelocity came along when I needed a boost and it’s gone from there. It’s a high pressure place and over there racing is the national sport.” A champion sprinter, Aerovelocity became the first Hong Kong horse to win three Group 1s in three different international jurisdictions. In the 2014-15 season he won the Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin (he also won it in 2016), the Krisflyer International Sprint (1200m) in Singapore and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in Japan.

Top jockey Douglas Whyte’s decision to start training in the new season (early September) has been headline news in Hong Kong, as has the enforced retirement of champion trainer John Moore through reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70. “But John is very competitive and very keen to keep going and he’s fighting to have the rule changed,” O’Sullivan said. “Douglas Whyte is getting good support and Blake Shinn is coming up (from Australia) to ride and he should be a great asset.”

O’Sullivan is one of the Hong Kong trainers making full use of the world-class training facility at Conghua in China as a satellite stable. “It’s been going for about 12 months and is a truly amazing set-up,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve got 25 horses up there and I’ll be going up for a few days when I leave here later this month. The horses travel back and forth to race in Hong Kong and it works smoothly.”