Dual Group 1-winning New Zealand sprinter Enzo’s Lad is in Hong Kong to represent his country, especially the South Island of that nation, and to represent the family of his trainer Michael Pitman in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The six-year-old gelding’s red and white silks, to be worn by another New Zealander James McDonald, bear the national symbol of a silver fern further adorned by a tiny ‘J’ in honour of Pitman’s late son Jonny.
Pitman’s remarkable story including his battle with bowel cancer, which was diagnosed in May last year, and family tragedy has already been well documented following his heartfelt interview at Thursday’s (25 April) Hong Kong Jockey Club Champion’s Day press conference.
His wife Diane and son Matthew flew into Hong Kong overnight and Pitman said they – and his staff – have kept the stable functioning while he has continued to undergo treatment. “Matthew’s had to do most of the work in the last six months, him and my wife. 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.
“Having Matthew alongside is really good. I did have another boy (Jonny) but unfortunately he took his own life six years ago. That’s why the ‘J’ is on the colours, we had to get special permission to add it but we wanted to honour his memory,” Pitman said.
The man who has trained about 1800 winners in New Zealand acknowledges that Enzo’s Lad will probably be dismissed by the ‘experts’ when he lines up in Sunday’s HK$16 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) but his attitude is more “you never know.”
“He hasn’t won the prize money of most of the horses here but he has won two genuine Group 1 races and won them well. We have one ticket in a two and half million dollar raffle and that’s about what it boils down to. I said to the owners, he’s travelled really good and I’m happy with him. We’re here because we deserve to be here and we’re proud to be here and this horse doesn’t mind defying the odds,” he said in reference to Enzo’s Lad winning the past two Telegraph Handicaps (Group 1) at odds of 73/1 and just under 33/1.