Enzo’s Lad works at Sha Tin. Photo by HKJC.


Enzo’s Lad flies the flag for New Zealand and the Pitman family

By Steve Moran, for the HKJC.



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.


Michael Pitman speaks to the press on Thursday morning.
Michael Pitman speaks to the press on Thursday morning.


The trainer, who looks like he’s defying the odds as well, bought Enzo’s Lad for just AUD$15,000 at the Magic Millions National Yearling Sale in Queensland. The horse is by champion miler Testa Rossa who contested the epic 2000 Hong Kong Mile in which the great New Zealand mare Sunline beat local hero Fairy King Prawn.

Pitman is grateful for the opportunities his horse has provided him and to be in Hong Kong for Sunday’s meeting.

“It’s phenomenal what they do for horses here. People the world over don’t realise horses get so well treated here. My horse got off the plane and within a half hour of getting to the quarantine station, the vets had taken a blood test and within an hour we had the results. I don’t think that would happen in too many other places around the world. His blood count was perfect despite the fact that he’d been travelling for nearly two days and in a foreign environment,” Pitman said.

Pitman said he expected the horse to cope with the hype of race day. “I’d like to think their attitude reflects their trainers and he’s got a very good temperament. He doesn’t get worked up, he’s push button.  He might get a little worked up on race day but he’s pretty laid back and I’m sure he’ll be fine,” he said.

“I know New Zealand must have the fastest clocks in the world,” he said in reference to the very fast times often recorded in races there, “but he gave weight to every horse in the race and he ran one six and change (officially 1m 06.95s) when he won the Telegraph second time around so he’s going pretty well. I couldn’t be happier with him.

“Hopefully he can run well and do the South Island proud. I think we get a bit forgotten down there at home but there’s a lot of good horsemen and good horses down where we are.”