Paul O’Sullivan’s decision to embark on a remedial course in barrier manners for Duke Wai paid rich dividends when the reformed gelding landed the Class 2 Hoi Ha Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (28 March).
Frustrated by the five-year-old’s habit of botching starts, O’Sullivan requested permission to use a blindfold on the chestnut and, with the cooperation of barrier staff and starter Tony Speechley, O’Sullivan’s toil was rewarded in the HK$2.2 million contest.
“The problem has been that he jumps in the air when the gates open, he’s been rocking up and jumping up in the air,” the New Zealander said.
“Tony Speechley said they’ve now got a man on his tail in the barriers, so they walk in the gate (with the horse), put a blindfold on in the gate and as soon as he’s got the blindfold on, he just stands still.
“If you’re lucky enough, you coincide getting the blindfold off pretty closely with the jump.
“We’ve been doing it the last three starts and he’s pinged it – he deserved that win, he’s a good tough horse.”
The neck margin Duke Wai held over The Crown, who charged from midfield, in the highlight race of the program vindicated the value of O’Sullivan’s horsemanship and provided the Kiwi trainer and apprentice Jerry Chau with doubles.