Andreas Schutz confessed to feeling ill to the point of vomiting when Hong Kong Jockey Club stipendiary steward Kenneth Kwok contacted him in Europe to notify him about the pending transfer of champion Good Ba Ba from his stable.
Reached Aug. 8, Schutz, currently on holidays in Europe, told of his shock, dismay and personal pain as the reality settles in that he will not prepare Good Ba Ba for an assault on an unprecedented third Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) title in December.
The transfer to Derek Cruz’s yard, scheduled to take place on the morning of Aug. 9, is all the more astonishing to Schutz as he and owner John Yuen Se-kit had been in “total agreement,” according to Schutz, on the year’s program for Good Ba Ba.
“The first goal was to be a third Hong Kong Mile, but after that we had discussed going for the Dubai Duty Free [end of March] and then on to Europe for the big mile races there,” Schutz revealed.
“I was extremely confident the horse had more big races in him. We’ve looked after him extremely well and he went for a break still at the top of his form. At his last start in the Champions Mile, he never got to run his race because of the soft ground — he was beaten by horses he would have carried on a good or fast track. For that reason, I fully expected him to come back to his best.”
The former champion trainer of Germany said that when he called Yuen to check on the story of Good Ba Ba’s rumored move, the owner said nothing, instead carrying on what Schutz described as “an everyday conversation.”
“It was only when I asked him, point blank, whether or not it was true that Good Ba Ba was moving to Derek Cruz he admitted it,” Schutz continued. “When I asked him a reason, he said he wants to support Derek Cruz because he has only 25 horses. I still know of no other reason.”
Schutz said his initial reaction to Kwok’s bad-news phone call was a strongly physical one. “I really felt sick, vomiting,” he said.
“The transfer came as a total surprise to me but then again, when I was given the horse back in 2006, that was a complete surprise to me as well. It seems Mr Yuen is a man full of surprises.”
Schutz said, however, that he feels sorriest for his staff who gave Good Ba Ba the attention a champion deserves over the last two years and nine months while he amassed 10 wins from 16 domestic starts and became Hong Kong’s highest-rated racehorse of all time.
“My assistant trainer, Ricky Chung Chim-ki has been great, so has Sammy, his regular track rider. His mafoo has been particularly devoted to the horse and even moved down to Beas River while he was spelling to be with the horse,” he said. “This horse has been a true champion to all of them and has been a highlight for everyone involved at the stable.
“But while this is very painful, the reality is that horses come and horses go, and life goes on. We should not be too negative in our feelings, however — I am thankful to Mr Yuen for the opportunity to train this horse in the first place, and we can look back on many wonderful memories.
“He was Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year, our champion miler for the last two years and is still one of the highest-rated horses in the world. Now we just have to put this behind us, work hard and hope that maybe another Good Ba Ba might one day come along.”