Club lines up galaxy of stars
Reigning French champion jockey Dominique Boeuf is the fresh face among a galaxy of riding talent officially licensed for next season by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The 32-year-old Boeuf will cross swords with reigning British champion Kieren Fallon in mid-season, which is also expected to be highlighted by visits from American superstar Gary Stevens, French ace Olivier Peslier and Irish star Michael Kinane.
As it stands, Derby hero Welshman David Harrison, who was retained this season by Brian P. C. Kan, is left out in the cold.
The Licensing Committee, which met on Monday, deferred decisions on other major appointments until their next meeting and will not name a new trainer for a few days.
'We have made an appointment but we have been asked by the trainer to delay the announcement until he has had time to inform his owners,' said director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.
Boeuf will join Eric Saint-Martin, retained by trainer Peter Ho next season, Freddie Sanchez, who joins Patrick Biancone, and new Club jockey Eric Legrix as part of the significant Gallic influence on Hong Kong racing.
Boeuf, who has ridden in the past for Andre Fabre and numbers some of Europe's best races among his victories, will ride from December 1 to March 15 next year.
Legrix, officially granted a Club jockey's licence for a year, said: 'Boeuf will do well in Hong Kong. He is a very good rider who likes to come from behind. He is strong and very determined.' Legrix is one of a quartet of jockeys licensed for the season with, as expected, South Africans Douglas Whyte and Robbie Fradd getting two of the positions.
The final spot went to dual Derby-winning jockey Alan Munro, who looked to be in limbo after David Oughton was refused a retained jockey next season.
Told of the decision yesterday morning, Munro said: 'I am absolutely delighted.' Whyte, still an outside chance for this year's title, was a leading candidate for a Club job and said: 'I am very pleased that it has now been granted. But I am not fooling myself, I think it is going to be a very tough season.
'There are going to be a lot of good riders here, world-class jockeys. Maybe not everyone will survive.' Legrix said: 'I am hoping to have the support of two or three stables and have spoken to several trainers. At this stage I am hopeful of good support from Geoff Lane, Wong Tang-ping and David Hill.' Fradd, who has made a big success of his Club jockey stints to date, said: 'I have always wanted to continue on in Hong Kong and now I am here for the whole season. I am very pleased with that and grateful for the chance.' Australian Glen Boss, who has made a success of two separate Club stints, has been licensed from September 1 to March 15 inclusive. He is enjoying a great run in Sydney with winners coming almost daily.
As expected Fallon, who was a huge hit last winter, will be licensed from November 1 to March 15 and with the prospect of jockeys like Stevens, Peslier and Kinane also around during the winter, Hong Kong's racing profile will soar.
All stable retainerships were quickly endorsed and there were no surprises with the committee postponing a decision concerning a jockey for trainer Kan.
Last night it emerged that the former champion trainer might now decide against retaining a jockey, which would bring the number of retained riders down to seven.
Said Engelbrecht-Bresges: 'If Brian decides against retaining a jockey we will not offer the opportunity to another trainer. We will keep it at seven retained riders.
'There are so many good jockeys available that it will not affect us in the least if there is one rider less. It will create other opportunities and, possibly with Brian, for local riders, too. That would be a benefit.' Senior local jockeys Eddie W. M. Lai and Jimmy K. H. Ting were re-licensed for the new season but the Licensing Committee deferred a decision concerning an application from former champion apprentice Jackie C. K. Tse.
All current apprentices were also re-licensed and it has also been decided that four specially selected assistant trainers will undergo extensive career training abroad.
Said Engelbrecht-Bresges: 'There will be positions in the future for local trainers and we want to ensure that those chosen will have experience.
'We have identified the four that we want and this will be their future careers and we will prepare them for it.' Don't miss Racing Post There are going to be a lot of good riders here. Maybe not everyone will survive