HK like a second home for Aussies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2012, 12:00am


Australian jockey Chris Munce breaking Mick Dittman's long-standing Brisbane record for wins in a season on Saturday made for an interesting juxtaposition of events over the weekend.

We can still recall Munce's wife, Cathy, in the immediate aftermath of her husband being found guilty in the 'tips for bets' matter and sentenced to prison, screaming across the court at Jockey Club officials that no Australian jockey would ever come to ride in Hong Kong again.

In the heat of that moment, and even upon cooler consideration, she did seem to have a point but the tale of the tape has been quite the opposite and Sunday's Aussie eight-win spree at the Reunification meeting reinforced the point.

It is almost 20 years since Noel Barker was the last Australian to win a jockeys' championship title, which has been South African property ever since and nailed to Douglas Whyte's wall since 2001, but riders from a land down under are looking a more obvious fit than ever for racing here.

The similar style of racing is probably the key to that, with little or no adjustment necessary, unlike jockeys from Europe and Britain, who find it a slightly different kettle of fish racing tight on circular tracks to the wide open spaces they mostly enjoy at home.

While new riding talents are also being produced in other places, there doesn't seem to be so much of that talent waiting in the wings for Hong Kong.

Oddly enough, for all of their extraordinary influence and success in racing here, South African jockeys - whose acclimatisation is just as quick and for the same reasons - are almost on the endangered species list.

Whyte is holding the rainbow flag all alone, after Weichong Marwing's stint officially ended on Saturday, and, for the sake of some diversity, the club must be hoping against hope that Richard Fourie works out well next season and takes a long-term position.

Precious few new South African faces have been turning up in recent years and staying, when once upon a time their arrival and success was relentless.

Likewise, the French, who were so thick on the ground at one point in the past 10 years that some of our local media counterparts had integrity concerns about the situation, seem to be available only for mid-season cameos, with the exception of Olivier Doleuze.

Six of the 10 club riders currently listed are Australian, and there isn't one there who hasn't or wouldn't make a great success of a long-term stay.

Then there are many more good, young jockeys on the rise in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere, just waiting for their chance here.