Leung lands Hughes, 'the new Piggott'
LAWRENCE WADEY racing editor
Local trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah has pulled off a massive coup for his owners by snapping up the services of the brilliant young Irish rider Richard Hughes for next season.
Leung has had a torrid time trying to finding a top-class rider for his emerging yard, which is packed full of well-bred and lightly raced youngsters who should be at their peak over the next couple of campaigns.
He failed in a bid to sign top British rider Richard Quinn, who instead opted for an improved contract to ride for Saudi Arabian Prince Fahd Salman, and it has become an open secret that his next choice, the four-time Classic winning Ulsterman Ray Cochrane, was rejected by the Jockey Club's licensing committee.
Top-flight riders then became thin on the ground for Leung, but in Hughes he has secured the services of the jockey they are talking about in Britain as the new Lester Piggott. And, like Piggott, Hughes has also ridden many winners over jumps as well as on the flat.
He is so talented that he's also one of Ireland's top hurdles riders, and even competed in the recent Cheltenham Festival. And he's had experience abroad, creating a huge impression in Sydney when riding there as a young apprentice.
Hughes was on course at Sha Tin for racing on Saturday, and flew out on Sunday morning after his whistle-stop trip to negotiate a contract with Leung and his owners.
'I have put forward the name of Richard Hughes to be my stable jockey for next season,' Leung confirmed yesterday.
Asked about his thoughts on Hughes' suitability, Leung responded: 'Harmony, that's the thing which I think will exist in our retainership, should it be approved. I think we can work in harmony. He's a top young rider and comes highly recommended.' Hughes, who suffers with his weight in England but will be much more at home out here with the higher weight scale in operation, currently does most of his flat riding for England soccer star turned leading trainer Mick Channon.
Jockey Club officials are understood to be delighted at the prospect of such a rare young talent as Hughes coming to ride in the territory, and it is almost certain the retainership will be ratified by the licensing committee.
In other news yesterday, the recent English 1,000 Guineas-winning jockey, Kieran Fallon, was understood to be applying for a Club Jockey position for next season.