Lai benefits from weight allowance
Top local rider Eddie Lai Wai-ming celebrated the return of his weight allowance in just over a month's time by landing Happy Winning victorious in the second at Sha Tin yesterday for Paul O'Sullivan and earning himself a compliment in the process.
'It wasn't easy to find a rider at 113 pounds but I found Eddie,' said O'Sullivan. 'These local boys, gee, they work very hard and I know Eddie rides well so I was happy to put him on.
'They don't get many opportunities in this environment so I think the two-pound claim is a great idea to help them - the competition here is so tough.'
At Friday's Racing Committee meeting, the Jockey Club announced weight allowances for Lai and the other senior local jockeys to better enable them to compete for rides with the expat stars.
The club has also reshuffled claims for apprentice jockeys along the same lines, allowing them to keep their various weight allowances for longer and will extend the same periods to riders who may have joined the senior ranks by age alone and without outriding their apprentice claim.
A 10-pound allowance will be available to any rider with less than 20 wins, the seven-pound claim for the next 25 wins and a five-pound allowance will be permitted then until a rider has won 70 races.
At that stage, jockeys will be allowed to claim three pounds until their 95th win, then go permanently to the minimum local rider's allowance of two-pounds.
The new rules come into force from November 1 and will be reviewed at next season's end.
For example, Eddie Lai will claim two-pounds along with Howard Cheng Yue-tin and Simon Yim Hin-keung, since all have ridden over 95 winners, but Alex Yu Kin-shing will be eligible to claim five pounds at present the winner of less than 70 winners. Way Leung Ming-wai will be far better off, having a return to his seven-pound claim.
'I think it's a very positive move to support the local riders,' said Lai. 'In the past couple of seasons I can think of many horses I rode which were placed and beaten by less than a length, and with two pounds off, a number of them would have been winners. I think it will make a difference.'
Even without a claim, Lai was too effective as he rode a copybook dirt race yesterday, pressed Happy Winning forward from a wide gate to sit outside the lead and drive clear for O'Sullivan's first victory this season.
'It was my first run with the horse so I couldn't say I thought he could win - I didn't know that much about him,' the trained conceded.
'But I did tell his owner that the improvement factor in the horse was probably zero - he was very fit today.'