No horsing around for the trainees in jockey school
Jockey Club opens its doors to new recruits who must be prepared for the disciplined life
Local apprentice jockeys are likely to have an athletic background, as recruiters look for skills that can be transferred from the sports field to the racetrack.
Strength and balance are two sought-after attributes, Apprentice Jockeys' School headmistress Amy Chan Lim-chee says.
Speaking as the Jockey Club prepares to sign on its next recruits, Chan said most locals did not have opportunities like many foreigners did to ride ponies when they were young. "So it's better that they have some sports skills that can be transferred [to horse-riding]," she said.
She added that the school might be an option for the pupils who will collect their Diploma of Secondary Education examination results on Monday.
Apprentice jockey Dicky Lui Cheuk-yin and work rider Mandy Mok Yee-man - whose job is to exercise horses - are two examples. Lui, 23, who started training in 2007, practised judo and Mok, 25, who started in 2009, played table tennis. Both scored well in the fitness tests and showed a passion for horse racing.
That passion has since been put to the test by a disciplined lifestyle and tough exercise schedule. The pair rise at 3.30am daily for horse-riding, grooming, stable work and courses ranging from English to sports science. They have more than 10 hours of training six days a week, and get just 6-1/2 hours of sleep every night.
"Since we've chosen this path, we have to persevere," said Lui.
But their hard work is bearing fruit. Lui, who has won 23 races, is now a champion apprentice who gets an annual bonus of about HK$600,000. With luck, he will become a full jockey in six years. Mok earns more than HK$20,000 a month as one of only five women among more than 100 work riders.
Recruitment starts on Monday and ends on August 2. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and have completed Form 4. Successful candidates will become racing trainees for a year, going through a structured but varied course. They will be paid HK$8,500 a month.
After that, they can choose to become a trainee apprentice jockey, trainee work rider, lead horse trainee, racing management trainee, equestrian assistant or apprentice farrier.
Of 500 candidates last year, 15 were selected.