Ricky Yiu is on the verge of the most extraordinary achievement in his 48-year career with the Hong Kong Jockey Club; an accomplishment greater even than his preparation of a three-time world champion sprinter. Yiu is within nine races of having ‘champion trainer’ appended to his name forever more.
Rewind 11 months and few would have thought it possible, never mind likely. Yiu is an astute trainer, famous for his handling of the great Sacred Kingdom in particular, and a respected conditioner with a noted eye for a good young prospect. But his has never been more than a mid-rank stable, lacking as it does the overall firepower and depth in quality of a John Size, John Moore, Tony Cruz or Caspar Fownes.
Yiu, 63, has 817 career wins as a trainer, at an average of 32 wins per season; before this term, his best tally was 49 in the 2010/11 campaign, and his worst a lowly 10 in 2005/06. He has had four top-five finishes in 25 years with a licence, his previous best being third in 1999, and last term he placed 15th in the table.
But, in this season that has straddled so much in the way of shock, surprise and turmoil, Yiu is close to pulling off what would register as one of the biggest eyebrow-raisers in Hong Kong racing’s recent history.
“No!” he says, when asked if he had any inkling last September that he might be in this position. “I knew I’d have a very good season because I had young ones, and horses that had dropped to the right rating, and I had horses that didn’t have any problems, so I thought I’d be able to keep them going and they’d run well.
“What I could not have expected was that I’d be in the first three at this stage.”