Horse Racing
Vincent Ho — ‘It’s always good to have Ryan Moore in HK’

By Jim McGrath
15/12/2023 15:40

Vincent Ho celebrates the LONGINES IJC triumph.
Vincent Ho celebrates the LONGINES IJC triumph.

Top international jockeys have been coming to Hong Kong since the start of the professional era in 1971.  In that first season, with Happy Valley the only track, the RHKJC — R was for ‘Royal’ in those days — managed to entice Lester Piggott and Yves Saint-Martin, the best in England and France, respectively.

Then came other big names such as Joe Mercer from England and Gianfranco Dettori, Frankie’s dad, from Italy, who both win the Jockeys’ Invitation Cup…and over the years most of the best riders from a variety of countries have flocked to Hong Kong to try their luck.

These days, the visitors keep coming. Their widely accepted leader is Englishman Ryan Moore, recently crowned LONGINES World’s Best Jockey for the fourth time.  Moore, 40, has won 16 Classics in Britain, two Arc de Triomphes, two Japan Cups, multiple LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) features, and in Australia, the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper, as well as 14 Breeders’ Cup races in America.

During HKIR week, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer, praised Moore for his contribution to Hong Kong racing in general, and specifically the encouragement and guidance he has given home-grown star Vincent Ho.

“I want to express my gratitude to Ryan Moore, who was Vincent’s mentor. Ryan, as a world class jockey, is willing to give something back (to racing), and he has helped Vincent to develop,” he said.

It was a proud moment for Hong Kong when Ho lifted the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley, emerging on top of a collection of the world’s best, which included Moore, James McDonald, Mickael Barzalona, Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle.

Ho was rightly delighted by his IJC triumph and also his win on Golden Sixty in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m). So, did Moore have anything to say to his young protege after that famous victory?

Vincent Ho steers Golden Sixty to an impressive victory in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Vincent Ho steers Golden Sixty to an impressive victory in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

“I saw Ryan after the next race. He congratulated me. He is always good to me. Ryan is always helpful to the young generation. And also in the jockeys’ room. Maybe he’s not the most popular guy with the media, but with his fellow jockeys and those working in the stables, he is a really respectful and helpful guy,” Ho said.

And the best advice Moore has given Ho, especially in relation to Golden Sixty?

“He just told me ‘You don’t have to worry about anything because you know the horse.  You know what to do’ It’s always good to have Ryan in Hong Kong.

“He always says to trust your horse, no matter what horse you are on. You’ve got to trust them.  The mind will be aligned with them and things will be better.”

Ho is now focusing on the rest of the season in Hong Kong and what should be the final two starts in the amazing career of Golden Sixty — and also taking time to reflect on last Sunday’s (10 December) thrilling win.

When barrier 14 was drawn, there were gasps of disbelief from some sections of the audience. The consensus was that it would be a very difficult draw to overcome.  But the jockey says he felt it was not a big deal.

“I was probably the only one, who was not worried,” he says. “It’s a big international race with 14 runners, so there was always a good chance there would be plenty of early pace. And I got the position that I wanted, three-wide with cover.

“I would rather be wide in 14 than drawn barriers one or two. I was always confident.  I know what Golden Sixty is capable of,” he adds.

Golden Sixty is destined to go into retirement later in the season — owner Stanley Chan says the gelding will live out his days in Japan — but is there part of Ho that wishes the champion had taken on challenges in other countries?

“It’s not a disappointment to me, not really. Of course, a lot of people would love to see him overseas.  But a lot of overseas horses have come here to Hong Kong and we have beaten them,” he points out.

“Prizemoney in Hong Kong is good enough. If you have a horse like him, why risk it?  The most important thing is that he is healthy. Of course, as a jockey, I would love to win those Group 1s elsewhere, but he doesn’t need to.

“It’s like Frankel or Baaeed, did they need to go overseas?  No.  Like Winx in Australia, did she need to go?  No.  Even the best horses don’t need to go outside all the time.  Their success still remains with them.

Ho is planning to ride at the Goodwood Festival in the UK in August but he has also been invited to ride at Hokkaido and Sapporo for two weeks, where he will be attached to the Yoshida stable.