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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
55,000 Furlongs to the Finish

Take 2 for a Gorgeous Debut

Gorgeous Debut
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 failed him.


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 performance.


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 horse.

Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club 


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Older Comments about Take 2 for a Gorgeous Debut...

TV, Danny Shum is a 10% winner, not 30%
any trainer at 30% winners should be under scrutiny for elephant juice
His Debut might not have been Gorgeous, but his second outing sure was. Looking forward to keeping up with this handsome Exceed and Excel gelding.

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Meet Matt Scott 

My horseracing journey began when I was 16 years old and my mom took me to Hollywood Park. Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, the experience stuck with me forever. 10 years later, during one of my many international business trips to Hong Kong, I visited Sha Tin racetrack to watch the races. This is where my true passion began. 


Holding a masters degree in mechanical engineering, the puzzle of handicapping intrigued me. I have made a career of making decisions based on trends, patterns, and formulas, which is why I think I was initially drawn to the sport. However, I have truly learned to appreciate the horses and how magnificent they are as athletes. 


I currently live in San Jose, CA, and when not following racing, I like to spend time with my wife, mountain bike, and design high-speed bicycles that I build and race For reference, 55,000 furlongs is the distance from Hong Kong to my home in San Jose. Also, I have 1-year-old dachshund (aka wiener dog) that I am training to race in the annual Wiener Nationals held at Golden Gate Fields.   


The purpose of this blog is to help give people the viewpoint of a fan that is newer to the sport and eager to learn. I like to respectfully speak my mind, and often the ideas come out of left field, which could give a fresh perspective on a sport rich with tradition and history. hope to represent the many future fans that I wish to follow my footsteps into the Sport of Kings. 

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