There are 21 jockeys licensed to ride in Hong Kong on full or part-time contracts at present. Only 14 horses will go to post for the circuit’s biggest domestic prize this Sunday (17 March), the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
The talent in the jockeys’ room includes the biggest names of all: Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Silvestre de Sousa. It also features skilled exponents of lesser standing but abundant ability, all angling in the past months and weeks to hook a Derby ride.
Neil Callan is pleased to have sealed his Derby spot on the John Moore-trained Sunny Speed, even though the horse is expected to fall short of snaring the winner’s share of the HK$18 million pot.
“It’s important for any jockey here to get a ride in the Derby because it’s such a prestigious race, such a big race,” the Irishman said.
But when this season’s four-year-old standouts go to post, as is ever the case, big draw fly-ins – licensed for the day – will have strapped their saddles to five of those contenders. Hugh Bowman (Furore) and Ryan Moore (Enrichment), no less, will each attempt to carry off a second Derby trophy; Craig Williams (Tianchi Monster), Oisin Murphy (Gold Chest) and James McDonald (Ho Ho Khan) are all eager for a first.
“Everyone knows how competitive it is here, there is only a certain amount of trainers and there are only 14 rides in the Derby,” Callan continued.