After a tough initiation into Australian racing, Smiley Chan is riding the crest of a wave with the former Hong Kong citizen bringing up his first Melbourne Saturday success at Ladbrokes Park Sandown.
Lake Tai’s (Makfi x Keepa Cheval) win in the Bert Bryant Handicap (BM70) forced Chan’s winning strike rate to about 20 per cent from his past 50 runners and making the occasion all the more special was that his friend Gary Lo, who also originates from Hong Kong, partnered the horse.
‘’He’s my friend now. He’s from Hong Kong, so I’m pretty happy we team up together,’’ Chan said after Lake Tai saluted at $17.
Chan, who now has 86 career winners, began training in Australia in 2020 after working for Terry and Karina O’Sullivan and he admitted that he struggled to make any sort of impact early.
‘’’It’s not easy, I can tell you,’’ he said of trying to make a name in the racing industry.
‘’I was always struggling when I first started and it’s still not easy for me. I’m not saying I work harder (than most) – everyone works really hard here – but sometimes you just need the luck to get the win and today I got the luck.’’
Lake Tai started his racing career with Bjorn Baker in Sydney after being purchased as a yearling for $180,000 and the gelding has been with Chan since early 2022, with Lake Thai missing the place just three times since his move.
“My vets help him a lot. When I first got him, four joints had a problem but then they started to get better and better and now is the second preparation for me and he’s pretty sound most of the time,” Chan said.
“I can say the vets did the job, I just help the horse a little bit only.”
While Chan had to wait a few seasons for his first significant Melbourne winner, it was first time lucky on a Melbourne metropolitan track for jockey Gary Lo, who only moved to Victoria in the past few weeks after several seasons riding with success in Adelaide.
‘’This is my first time riding for a Hong Kong trainer. It is a good combination,’’ Lo said. ‘’I am from Hong Kong as well, so it was good to get the win for Smiley.’’
Bred by David Archer’s Archer Equine Investments Ltd, Lake Tai is a half-brother to triple Group One winner Bostonian (Jimmy Choux) and stakes-placed three-year-old Cheval d’Or (Almanzor). He was born and raised at Trelawney Stud before being sold as a yearling though their 2018 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 draft where he was knocked down to Alan Lee and Danny Shum for $180,000. -NZ Racing Desk