Pia Brandt will not necessarily be a familiar face for many Hong Kong racing fans but aficionados are far more likely to recognise the silks carried by her horse Called To The Bar.
The five-year-old will carry the blue and white silks of Fair Salinia Ltd, the breeding and racing operation of Sven and Carina Hanson made most famous by Pride, the phenomenal mare trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre. She was narrowly denied a pulsating 2005 renewal of the Hong Kong Cup by Vengeance Of Rain before being on the right side of a photo finish with Admire Moon on what was to be her valedictory performance the following year.
In a neat piece of symmetry, Brandt was associated with one of Pride’s sons, who also has a connection of his own to the racecourse at Sha Tin. One Foot In Heaven, sired by Fastnet Rock, has proved her most capable progeny to date, winning twice at Group 2 level in France for Royer-Dupre before claiming a respectable third place in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase three years ago.
That day, Brandt was a guest of her Swedish compatriots and she ended up taking over training of One Foot In Heaven, who returned from a somewhat disappointing stint in Australia and registered a welcome win in a conditions event at Saint-Cloud only a few weeks ago.
This time around, she assumes a far more active role in the Vase.
“I was just visiting when One Foot In Heaven was running together with Sven and Carina,” she explains.
“I’ve known them maybe for 10 years, and the last five years since I’ve been training for them, we’ve become quite close.
“We have a share in this horse together, and we have a two-year-old who won the other day. They’ve had a lot of success with Mr. Royer-Dupre and when he was starting to think of having fewer horses, they moved on. We are friends as well, communicating a lot, and they come and stay with us when they’re in France.”