Marking the end of a decorated apprenticeship in emphatic style, Jerry Chau intends to capitalise on his status as the second-fastest rider to make the graduation from indentured to senior ranks after Transcendent snared the Class 3 Gloucester Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday (6 October).
Competing in his 639th Hong Kong race, 21-year-old Chau unfurled a clinical ride on Tony Cruz’s sprinter, stalking the speed before taking command inside the final 100m and then gesturing jubilantly on crossing the line as his parents watched from the grandstand.
Under the existing 70-win graduation system, Matthew Chadwick holds the mantle as the fastest to reach graduation, taking 472 rides, but Chau now occupies second place after supplanting Matthew Poon (650) and Vincent Ho (727).
“Amazing. Finally, today, to get 70 winners. I’m very, very excited. My parents have been coming to every meeting waiting for me to get to 70 winners and it happened now. I’m very excited,” Chau said, affirming his desire to improve further.
“I’ve been very lucky to have the support of so many trainers and my boss (Douglas Whyte) gives me every opportunity. He has helped me improve very, very quick. It’s amazing for this to happen.
“I’m looking forward to riding more winners.”
After joining the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School in 2015, Chau was sent on an overseas placement in 2019, honing his skills Down Under in South Australia with the training partnership of Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas in Adelaide, while accumulating 77 wins abroad.
He emerged as a bona fide future star last season, riding 58 winners to shatter Chadwick’s previous record haul of 55 victories as an apprentice through a single season.
Whyte expects to continue a close and successful relationship with his protégé.
“It’s been a long time coming, he’s been unlucky on a few, but he’s been riding well and he deserves it,” the 13-time champion jockey said. “I think now he’s going to get more opportunity at three pounds, it’s going to open up a bigger margin for him and a lot more opportunities.”
Chau’s elevation came as Joao Moreira breathed confidence into his championship defence with a treble, crowning the three-timer with a resounding triumph on Me Tsui’s Telecom Fighters in the Class 2 Fleming Handicap (1650m).
Cutting Zac Purton’s lead to four – 17 to 13 – the Brazilian also saluted atop John Size’s A Smile Like Yours in the first section of the Johnston Handicap (1200m) after steering Frankie Lor’s Savvy Kingman into the winners’ circle, coolly dictating terms from the inside gate to lead throughout to claim the Class 4 Luard Handicap (1800m).
Undaunted by a challenging start to the season, Keith Yeung was rewarded for toil and patience when Jimmy Ting’s Shadow Breaker swept past Ernest Feeling and Charizard to lift the Class 4 Lockhart Handicap (1650m).
Sent off at +3300, Shadow Breaker erased a 16-start run of outs.
“I’m very happy that Keith was able to help me have a winner. I thought it was impossible, I didn’t know he could win having drawn 12, it is very difficult. He was very lucky because the pace was too fast, that’s why he could come from behind,” Ting said, celebrating a double.
Chad Schofield produced a copybook leader’s display aboard Jimmy Ting’s On Excel Star, piloting the Niagara gelding to success in the Class 5 O’Brien Handicap (1650m) – the horse’s first victory in Hong Kong.
“Even though he is not in very good form, he had the rating and the race had a slow pace, which helped him a lot,” Ting said.
Benno Yung hopes Noir Rider, winner of the Class 4 Jaffe Handicap (1000m), can maintain momentum after breakthrough success under Purton.
“It’s not easy for him. The horse is tough and was able to take the lead from a good draw and Zac gave him a good ride,” Yung said of the Shamus Award gelding, who broke through at his 12th attempt.
“Happy Valley is most suitable for him. I think he can run 1200 (metres) with a soft lead.”
Veteran Dynamic Eagle stormed late to clinch the Class 3 Harbour Handicap (1800m) for Danny Shum and Alexis Badel to notch his fourth victory at the city circuit over distances ranging from nine furlongs to 2200m.
Karis Teetan was taken to hospital for observation after suffering right shoulder soreness after falling in the home straight from Yoo Yoo King. X-rays cleared Teetan of fractures, but the Mauritian remained in hospital for observation.
Teetan’s misfortune’s became Harry Bentley’s gain when the Englishman replaced him on the David Hayes-trained Sight Hero, who emerged triumphant in the second section of the Class 4 Johnston Handicap (1200m).
“It was bad luck for Karis, of course,” Hayes said, after posting his 13th victory of the term. “But Harry did a great job. He gave the horse a good beginning and a nice rest and he was strong at the end, so it was excellent.
“The horse did a really good job.”