Michael Dee will commence his short-term riding stint in Hong Kong with three mounts at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (24 May).
Starry Night, Lean Hero and Sight Hero are Dee’s first rides in the city – all for trainer David Hayes – and come fresh following his Group 1 success on Saturday (20 May) at Morphettville in Adelaide, Australia aboard Royal Merchant in the G1 The Goodwood (1200m).
Hailing from a racing tradition in New Zealand, Dee is the son of a former trainer. He’s ridden over 700 winners and has Group 1 victories in the Caulfield Cup, Victoria Derby, Blue Diamond Stakes, Coolmore Classic, The Goodwood and Australian Guineas (twice).
“It is very exciting. It’s going to be certainly a different challenge but it’s exciting. It’s obviously going to be very different but at this time in Australia, apart from the Queensland Carnival, it’s pretty much a quiet period in Victoria – it’s certainly a good time to be spreading my wings and having a look at Hong Kong,” Dee said.
Dee completed a two-week apprentice loan in Hong Kong before he relocated to Australia in 2015. Dee’s minimum riding weight is 113lb and his licence concludes after the fixture on 9 July at Sha Tin.
“It’s probably on every jockey’s radar to have the opportunity (to ride in Hong Kong) and I am lucky that this has come up now,” Dee said.
Dee has enjoyed success in Australia with Hayes’ sons Ben & JD; tomorrow night the in-form rider heads to Happy Valley for the second time after previously riding in a barrier trial through his apprentice loan swap.
“He’s probably been their (Ben & JD Hayes) most successful jockey and he was an obvious choice and I think he was an astute choice for Hong Kong,” Hayes said.
By Japanese sire Maurice, the Hayes-trained Lean Hero (131lb) has been assigned gate one in the first section of the Class 4 Hyacinth Handicap (1650m) for Dee as the horse chases for a second win and first since corrective throat surgery in early April.
“He had a run over a shorter distance and it was full of merit. He was finishing off well and I think he’s fit, he has a good barrier and he should run a good race back at the Valley,” Hayes said.
Still a colt, Lean Hero is rated 55 and boasts a sharp closing speed.
“The minor surgery certainly helped him, that’s why he’s had a bit of time between runs leading into his last run – it looks to have helped him.
“He gives me the impression that the further he goes the better he will be, he’s only a three-year-old, so we’ll probably keep him to a mile and 1800 metres this season,” Hayes said.
Dee will look to guide Starry Night (134lb) to a first win for Hayes at his first ride in Hong Kong when the duo lines up in the Class 5 Cornflower Handicap (1000m) from gate two.
“He’s in good shape, 1200 metres would probably be a bit more ideal, the 1000 metres could be a bit sharp. He’s well drawn and it’s not an overly strong race,” Hayes said.
Sight Hero (132lb) closes out Dee’s book in the second section of the Class 4 Jasmine Handicap (1200m), shooting for a third course and distance win this term.
Wednesday’s (24 May) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Bellflower Handicap (2200m).
By Declan Schuster, HKJC