Riccarton trainer Michael Pitman is enjoying the build-up to racing at Sha Tin on Sunday as his class sprinter Enzo’s Lad gets set to contest the HK$16 million Gr.1 the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The Kiwi conditioner is enjoying every minute of his time in Hong Kong, as he takes in what is a once in a lifetime experience.
Pitman, who prepares the dual Group one winner with son Matthew, was happy to answer questions when attending a media briefing prior to the all-important barrier draw for Sunday where his charge drew favourably in gate two.
“He’s got a good temperament and I couldn’t be happier,” Pitman said.
“Up here it is phenomenal what the Hong Kong Jockey Club do for horses, they get so well treated.
“He flew in from Sydney and within half an hour the vets had taken a blood test and within an hour we had the results, which I don’t think would happen in too many places in the world.
“His blood was perfect after two days of travelling. He’s a dude, he’s pretty laidback for a sprinter, he doesn’t get worked up, he’s push-button.”
Pitman said he was gradually trying to acclimatise his six-year-old speedster to the humid surrounds of Sha Tin.
“We have got to go out and race in the heat,” Pitman said. “We’re in air-conditioned boxes and we started out at 21 degrees, but we’re gradually putting the temperature up to try to get him use to it.”
The 63-year-old is understandably proud of his dual Group One winning sprinter, who earned his ticket to Hong Kong care of victory in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) back in January when winning the Trentham dash for the second time.
“He ran 1:06 and change when he won the Telegraph the second time around and he had 58kgs on his back,” Pitman said.
“He is the first horse since Mr Tiz, one of the best gallopers in Australasia of his time, to win the Telegraph back-to-back.
“I couldn’t get to sleep that night wondering where I could run this horse. He was weighted out of New Zealand racing.
“I rang Mark Player (of the Hong Kong Jockey Club) at midnight because they indicated he could have come last year. I said to Mark ‘you better put me in the hat for going to Hong Kong’ and we’re here.
“At the moment, we’ve got a ticket in a NZ$2.5 million raffle and we’re here because we deserve to be here and I am pretty proud of that, to be honest.”
While proud to be flying the flag for New Zealand on the international scene, Pitman is also a great advertisement of what a can-do attitude can achieve.
The trainer has overcome several set-backs in his life, most recently battling bowel cancer that has lead to him shedding 33kgs, but the top-five New Zealand trainer has continued to make the most out of life.
“Back in August I got diagnosed with cancer quite badly, but I’m all right. I’m a survivor,” Pitman said.
“I had a massive operation in October. I was under the knife for seven-and-three-quarter hours, but the surgeon told me that he’s 99 percent sure that I’ll never have another problem.”
Since his operation Pitman, with the help of wife Diane and son Matthew, has campaigned Savvy Coup and Sensei in Australia, in addition to churning out winners in his homeland and topping the NZ$1 million mark in stakes for a third successive season.
“In the last two years we’ve won four Group One races in New Zealand,” he said. “It took me 26 years to train my second Group One winner, so I know how hard it is.
“My wife and my son are incredibly hard workers, they just do so much work and I’m just steering the ship, that’s all I’m doing.” – NZ Racing Desk