Hong Kong ‘gets’ Silvestre de Sousa. It has for a good while now. The city’s racing fans, its owners, its trainers, all of them hardheaded judges conditioned to appreciate jockeys endowed with strength, savvy, that all-important ‘fighting heart’, and, above all, an uncanny ability to win – they ‘get’ de Sousa.
The Brazilian, for his part, fits into Hong Kong as well as Mohammad Ali’s right fist in a bound and fastened 8oz Everlast. But in his own mind, that was not always so; despite his first two head-turning short stints in 2015/16 and 2016/17 – for a more than respectable 16 wins each time – De Sousa chose not to apply for a contract in the 2017/18 season.
The overriding reason for skipping that winter was the birth of the second of his three children. Instead, he flew in briefly for the 2017 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship, but there was a hint of coolness towards Hong Kong at that time, or, at least, certain factors around the racing scene; a sense of mild disgruntlement – like a schoolboy peeved at the master.
“I felt that things weren’t quite working out when I left the second time, so that was a factor in me not coming back the year after, and we didn’t want to bring the baby all the way here. But I also like Dubai, it’s a different style of life there and I had a good offer to go there. At that time, I just wasn’t in love with Hong Kong,” De Sousa says.
That is in the past, though, blown away this time last year in a flurry of Sha Tin success.
“Things changed,” he says. “The baby was older and I thought I’d give it another go and last season was good, I just went from strength to strength and I enjoyed it.”