Hong Kong’s jockey roundabout is spinning into overdrive as the biggest week of the year approaches and Silvestre de Sousa is aiming to capitalise at Sha Tin this Sunday (2 December) as he replaces Chad Schofield on two highly-promising youngsters.
De Sousa has ridden four winners in as many weeks since his return to Hong Kong – including a G2 success aboard Eagle Way in the Jockey Club Cup – and has done so with a different mental approach this time around.
“I definitely feel more relaxed this year,” he said. “Everything went right in my first year here but the second time I was a bit lost – it just wasn’t me. But now I feel I handle the system a little bit better.
“Racing here is like a roundabout – everyone gets a turn – and if you lose one ride you can get two others. Jockeys at home ask me how can you get jocked off and stay smiling. I just think we are blessed to get up in the morning and be able to go to work. Like Tony Cruz says, you just have to go with the flow, man!”
Treasure on the hunt for winning reappearance
That merry-go-round has turned in the Brazilian’s favour on Sunday as he takes over from the bang-in-form Schofield aboard Hainan Star in the Cameron Handicap (1400m) and Refined Treasure in the Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup (1000m.)
Ricky Yiu’s Hainan Star has shown abundant promise in two starts over 1000m and 1200m and moves up in distance again, while Refined Treasure reeled off three wins in a row over the minimum trip for trainer Tony Millard before undergoing surgery for knee problems in May.
Schofield was aboard Refined Treasure during a gentle trial in October, but de Sousa will ride for the first time this weekend and has been impressed with what he has seen from afar.
“It was a big surprise to get the ride but I’ve looked at his previous runs just as I always do,” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t happen the way it should be happening but I’ve got better rides this week. They’re not certainties but they’ve got chances and with a bit of luck they could win.”
Hainan Star’s inexperience has been clear to see on both his starts but de Sousa has galloped him three times since his close third behind Perfect Match earlier this month and feels he has the potential to reverse the form over an extra 200m.
“He’s been a bit immature and babyish but he’s run two nice races,” he added. “He’s been going great when I’ve sat on him, so I hope I get luck in the race, but I’m excited to ride him.”
De Sousa is also in for an exciting HKIR day on 9 December and will be engaged in all four G1 contests.
His booking for Eagle Way in the Vase was already well known, while Cruz has booked him for Winner’s Way in the Sprint, but de Sousa will replace Schofield again on the Millard-trained Singapore Sling in the Mile and has picked up a very good spare aboard Frankie Lor’s Glorious Forever in the Hong Kong Cup.
Millard on the brink of memorable milestone
Millard didn’t have a runner on Happy Valley’s Wednesday card and saddles just one other runner in addition to Refined Treasure on Sunday as he bids to secure the one winner needed to reach a notable landmark.
Top Ace and Callan Murray combine in the opening Ashley Handicap as Millard goes in search of his 600th Hong Kong success, but old ally Schofield is exploring other avenues as he bids to follow up his midweek treble at the city track.
“I have nine rides including a few good chances such as Bring It On (R3), Gracious Ryder (R5), Chung Wah Spirit (R8) and Relentless Me (R10),” said Schofield.
“Getting the treble at the Valley on Wednesday was brilliant but I just wish it had come a week earlier as then I would have been riding in the IJC next Wednesday.”
Ho hoping Ugly can show his handsome side again
Vincent Ho partnered Pakistan Star to a workmanlike morning trial success today (30 Nov) and then swiftly switched his focus to partnering Ugly Warrior in Sunday’s Nathan Handicap (1200m).
Me Tsui’s bonny chestnut has won five out of six on Sha Tin’s AWT, most recently when forming one leg of a memorable four-timer for Ho in October, and a seven-point rise is unlikely to stop him going close again according to his rider.
“His record is very impressive and he still seems to be getting better,” Ho said. “He’s been very good in two trials since his last win and, if he keeps improving, then maybe he could even be a horse who can compete internationally.”