Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Danny Shum is a trainer of sprinters. With 31 of his 36 winners in the 2012/2013 season coming at distance of 1 mile or less, he knows how to get speed out of his runners. The pinnacles of his career as a trainer
have come from Scintillation and Little Bridge. The former was a multiple grade
1 winner of sprinting races in Hong Kong, while the latter was voted as Hong
Kong’s Champion Sprinter in the 2011/2012 season. This was capped by a win in
the 2012 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
In March of 2013, Hong Kong hosted one of its top
international horse auctions, where a few very select horses would be offered
with the intention of being raced locally. Imported from Australia, New
Zealand, England, Ireland, and the USA they represented some of the top bloodlines
from around the world. One that stood out was a Southern Hemisphere bred 3-year
old gelding by Exceed and Excel out of the Dehere mare Mirror Mirror.
I am no expert in thoroughbred conformation, but after one
look at Lot 13, I knew instantly that he was something special. But photos can
be deceiving. I needed to see more. Watching his pre-auction breeze (click on the video of Lot 13)
confirmed my intuition that this young horse has promising talent to compliment
his flashy good looks. A long stride that was impressively quick. I couldn’t
wait to see what this horse could do in an actual race.
Offered at the pre-sale price of $3,832,000 HKD (~$500,000
USD), his sellers knew what they hand on their hands. When the hammer finally
fell, the gelding went for auction-topping price $6.2 million HKD (~$800,000
USD). It was also reported that he would be transferred to the barn of Danny
Shum. A champion sprinting pedigree with plenty of raw speed and he was going
to trainer of champion sprinters.
Later the gelding was named Gorgeous Debut and awarded an
initial Hong Kong race rating of 52. All fields of Hong Kong races are
determined by their race rating. Stakes horses usually are rated 90 and above,
while lower level horses can be rated as low as single digits. Horses are restricted
to race against company that is no more than 20 “points” in either direction.
These ratings determine weights carried in handicaps, and the class of the
competition in a given race. Its quite simple, if a horse performs well, there
ratings improve, if they perform poorly, they decrease. If they finish in the
“middle of the pack” then their ratings usually remain stagnant.
Already arriving to Hong Kong with a racing foundation,
Danny Shum continued with steady progression towards racing. His first exposure
to competition would be a ½ mile barrier trial. When the gates opened Gorgeous
Debut looked as if he was sleeping. Spotting the field nearly 4 lengths in a ½
mile trial is not doing yourself any favors. Once he woke up he fired out of
the gate like he was running from the devil. Showing no self-control he
sprinted as hard as he could, which was good enough for 2nd place.
The stewards were not quite convinced this horse was ready for prime time, and
More foundation training from Shum allowed Gorgeous Debut to
pass his next barrier trial, proving he was ready to race. However, at this
point in time the season was over, and he would have wait. Running in one more
trial at the start of the season, he again was awarded a passing grade
confirming he was ready. One week later he was set to make his debut
Call it stage fright, but his first race started very
similar to that of his first barrier trial. When the gates opened to the
5-furlong handicap, he was slow to break and spotted the field a few lengths
before charging out in pursuit. Showing a little more experience, coupled with
restraint from his rider, he was able to conserve a bit more energy and made a
late charge to finish mid pack. His debut race was anything but gorgeous…
This past Sunday was his second career race, a 6-furlong
handicap for horses rated 40-60. Under the expert guidance of champion jockey
Douglas Whyte, Gorgeous Debut did something he had yet to do in his young
career: broke sharply. Going straight to the lead with little restraint, he was
eased to rail to set the pace. Setting moderate clips, Whyte remained a statue
on his mount headed into the stretch. The inexperienced gelding looked like a
seasoned veteran knowing exactly when and where he needed to kick it into gear.
All it took was a shake of the reigns with a furlong to go, and Gorgeous Debut
finished strongly all the way to the wire for a ½ length win. View the video replay here
His rating will climb with this performance meaning he will
carry more weight in his next race. Under the continued guidance of Danny Shum
and now that he knows how to win, I expect a bright future for this young
Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club