By David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Jerry Chau made a dream home debut at Sha Tin on Saturday, 9 May, driving first past the post not once but twice just five days after teaming up with his new boss Douglas Whyte, the first-season handler best known as Hong Kong’s iconic 13-time champion jockey.
The 10lb claimer was three rides into his new assignment when his breakthrough win arrived atop Relentless Me, a 2/1 shot in the Class 3 Crystal Handicap (1200m). He rounded his four-ride step-out with a mature victory on the John Moore-trained Buddies in the Class 1 Amber Handicap (1400m).
“I didn’t think I could have a double on my first day but I’m really lucky and very thankful, especially to Mr. John Moore and my boss,” Chau said.
“The first win was very exciting, especially as I won for my mentor. He has already taught me a lot, in particular those things that I need to pay attention to when riding in Hong Kong. He knows everything about Hong Kong racing and he has encouraged me to keep on asking questions. He said to me: ‘If you don’t ask, you will never know,’ so that’s what I will do.”
Whyte was pleased with his protégé’s first-time performance in the unforgiving cauldron of Hong Kong racing.
“He’s ridden phenomenally well for his first day and with a little bit of luck on Smiling City it could have been three winners. It’s about building momentum now and building a bit of confidence,” the trainer noted.
“He’s riding with his head and that’s what you need to do in Hong Kong. We need to make sure it doesn’t go to his head and that’s what I’ve got to be there for. Today is a great day and tomorrow’s another day – don’t worry, he’ll be working tomorrow morning!”
Chau displayed intelligence aboard Buddies, settling third on a horse more accustomed to making the running, following advice from Whyte and instruction from Moore.
“Yesterday when we walked the track and I gave him a bit of advice, he’s obviously absorbed it and he’s riding the ‘C’ Course according to how it should be ridden – very ‘heady’,” Whyte said.
“With Buddies, we went through the racing pattern and I said to him to not be afraid to talk to Mr. Moore and if something goes crazy let them go; I told him ‘this horse has never taken a sit before and you could make the difference’ – well, he did it. If he’d taken on the horse in front something would have been coming from the back.”
Well done @JerryChau15! ?
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 9, 2020
Chau took the counsel and applied it to winning effect.
“After the jump I saw the leader come across and he was travelling really well; my horse was comfortable sitting with cover and when I moved out in the straight he kicked really well,” he said.
Chau, 20, was called home after just one year of his overseas placement in South Australia, where he was indentured to the Leon McDonald and Andrew Gluyas stable – he notched 77 wins there at a solid 14% strike rate. His first Hong Kong success came one year and one day after his initial career victory at Balaklava aboard Serious Spender.
“It’s all come about quite fast for me,” Chau said. “It was surprising news when our (Hong Kong Jockey Club Apprentice Jockeys’ School) Headmistress (Amy Chan) rang me and told me that I could be back in Hong Kong the next week. I was very happy about it!” he revealed.
The youngster settled his first winner, Relentless Me, on the rail, two lengths off the leader’s back, and opted to shift out for a clear run into the straight. Chau picked up his stick and began to urge at the 300m mark and his mount responded with grinding progress.
That momentum continued when the apprentice’s stick flew turf-ward – Chau kept his cool for a tidy hands and heels push through the line.
“When I went to pull the whip through, maybe I was a bit nervous but I dropped my whip. I had to push the horse hands and heels and I screamed at the horse, but the horse was so honest for me and I’m very happy that I was able to win the race in the end,” he said.
Chau had four rides on the day and he opened with fourth-place for trainer Ricky Yiu, who played a guiding role in the rider’s education before he ventured to Australia. And with the Whyte-trained Smiling City placing a half-length third in race six, his stats showed a 50% win strike rate and every mount picked up a cheque.