Luk Chin not slowing down yet
By Michael Guerin
If any other horse trainer qualified 75 per cent of their race team for New Zealand’s biggest day of group one racing it would seem remarkable.
In the case of Luk Chin that barely scratches the surface.
Chin could potentially have three of his four active racehorses starting at the $900,000 IRT Harness Jewels harness racing meeting on his home track of Cambridge on Sunday week.
Considering he breeds, owns, trains and drives almost all his own horses as a hobby, that is some feat.
But it is even more stunning when you consider Chin in 78 years old.
And his story borders the incredible when you consider he is actually Dr Luk Chin, still a working full time anesthesioligist 13 years after he qualified for his pension.
“I never really thought about retiring,” said Dr Chin, after 41 years working at Waikato Hospital.
“I work mainly privately now but I had a lot of people ask me to stay on because there are a shortage of doctors in my field.
“I have just finished doing my rounds now for a few patients,” says Chin mid-afternoon on a Monday.
His day starts a lot earlier than that, up every morning at 5am to train his horses before heading to work between 8 and 9am.
“Sometimes when it is cold and the horses aren’t going so well I wonder if I am crazy,” he laughs.
“But in all honesty I love it. I love being around the horses and the industry.
“And I am proud of what I have been able to achieve.”
Chin has had over 100 winners which he bred, owned, trained and drove entirely on his own, almost all of them trotters.
His breed of mainly Russian-named horses love to race in front and Chin say he loves the trotters.
“Since I moved to just trotters (as opposed to pacers as well) I have been far more competitive.
“When you are a small trainer like me you can’t compete with the bigger stables in the pacing races.”
Dr Chin trains his small team on his 1000m track at Tamahere, outside Hamilton, where fellow trainer Sean McCaffrey is also now based.
“It is great having Sean working his horses at my place because if I do have early appointments he helps out.”
McCaffrey drove Alana to win at Cambridge last Thursday, qualifying her for the $100,000 Garrard's Horse & Hound 4YO Ruby at the Jewels, which is the end of season championship for age group harness horses.
“She actually had a bit of bad luck after the race when she stood on herself and go a few stitches so we will see how she recovers by Friday before deciding whether she starts,” says the man with more insight into injury recovery than maybe any other trainer in New Zealand.
“But Jasinova is definitely starting and I’ll drive her and I suppose there is a small chance Voronov (third emergency) could get into the juvenile race.
“If they all get a start maybe I’ll drive all three, let the 78-year-old get out there and have some fun.”
After 50 years as a doctor you presume Chin could afford to send his horses to a fulltime trainer, giving him the option for a sleep in and endure less long and often winless nights.
“Some times I think about it when I am driving home from Alexandra Park at 11pm on a Friday and both the horses might have galloped and misbehaved.
“But then you have the nights when they make you proud and days like Jewels day to look forward to.
“I mean these are big races on my home track competing against the best stables and horses. How could I not be excited about that?”
Smiley and warm, immensely popular in the tight-knit harness racing industry, Luk Chin isn’t going to let small factors like age and a busy work schedule get in his way.
Come IRT Harness Jewels day at Cambridge on June 6, the doctor will definitely be in the house.