Aussies crack down on HK riders

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am

Three promising apprentice jockeys have been denied visa extensions in Australia, jeopardising the Jockey Club's highly successful foundation training of jockeys Down Under.

The young riders went to Australia on a one-year occupational training visa, but they need more experience, said Amy Chan Lim-chee, the club's racing talent development manager.

'The visas expire on July 6 but we don't feel the three boys have had sufficient experience yet,' Chan said. 'We want them to have 150 or more rides before they are ready to come back and begin riding here, but they haven't reached that number.

'We applied for an extension to their visas some months ago but that has been refused by immigration authorities in Australia. The trainers are keen for them to stay, but immigration authorities appear to be getting more strict with these kinds of visas.'

A spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the applicants failed to meet eligibility requirements for the visa.

'Without discussing individual cases, the occupational training visa allows foreign nationals to complete structured, work-based training programmes,' the spokesman said. 'The training must provide people with additional skills pertinent to their occupation or field of expertise. If the training isn't completed in the approved visa period then a second visa can be applied for. Both the applicant and the nominating organisation must again satisfy the department and meet eligibility requirements for the visa. If they don't, the visa will be refused.'

The training programme, which has shown a marked improvement in the standards of 10-pound claimers by allowing them to learn the fundamentals with trainers in Australia before tackling the higher pressures of Hong Kong, has been going for more than eight years without a hitch.

The Jockey Club will most likely switch the young riders to trainers in New Zealand, where the visa situation is better. Vincent Ho Chak-yiu has already been transferred to the Matamata stables of Andrew Scott, but the other three youngsters are likely to return to Hong Kong before new plans are firmed up.

'That is not to say we are not continuing our efforts to make successful applications on extending their visas,' Chan said. 'But since there is little time between now and the expiry of their current permits, New Zealand is the most likely option.'

David Mo Hin-wai, based with trainer Tony Sears in Toowoomba, Queensland, has already had around 130 rides for 16 wins. Alvin Ng Ka-chun and Henry Wong Yu-hang are also showing promise.

In another departure from the previous system, the Hong Kong-based apprentices including rising star Matthew Chadwick will remain at home for the summer break rather than taking an overseas posting to further their experience.

'All the boys are getting quite a lot of rides here now, so we felt the best thing for them would be to take a short rest after the season ends and remain here, where we'll work on their strength and conditioning,' Chan said. 'They will be required back at trackwork again from July 20 so they won't have too long a break.'