Has Terry Wong Chi-wai been riding racehorses this season, or one of those annoying shopping carts you to get at the supermarket, the ones with the wonky front wheels? Sometimes it’s like his mounts are running around with roller skates strapped to their hooves.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the horse’s sense of direction in most cases and it has been Wong’s navigation that has been under scrutiny by stewards. Last night at Happy Valley he was slapped with another careless riding charge – his seventh of the season – and a three-meeting ban seems like the final blow to his chances of continuing next season.
Wong also rode a much-needed winner, Sea The Pearls for Dennis Yip Chor-hong in a special conditions class three. The special conditions were for struggling horses, not jockeys, but Wong will need all the help he can get if he is to retain a licence.
The 28-year-old was asked to “show cause” prior to last season – following a one-win term – and followed that with a 10-win season. This season, suspensions have stood in the way of any momentum, some stunning lapses in concentration nearly causing falls on a number of occasions.
Sea The Pearls’ victory was Wong’s second winner in 141 rides this season and this latest ban with just 16 meetings remaining leaves him stranded well short of what he would need to justify inclusion on next season’s roster.
Two wins from 141 rides is a terrible strike rate, but what about seven suspensions? That’s some effort, but not a good one.
Sometimes successful jockeys attract a high number of suspensions because they are constantly pushing the limits. It’s the same competitive instinct that makes them champions that sees them fall foul of stewards.
But Wong’s charges have been for exactly what the name of the charge implies: careless. Maybe he needs a set of rear vision mirrors for the rest of the season, but after that? Perhaps he could consider a future as a representative for jockeys in hearings, because he certainly has a thorough grounding in Rule 100 (1).
Wong’s effort on Viva Dolphin in February might have been his worst. He copped five meetings for nearly bringing down Optimization Star – his rider, Derek Leung Ka-chun, needed a change of breeches after that one. It could have been catastrophic if not for a remarkable effort from the horse to stay upright. Watch the patrol footage , from about 1min 25s, Optimization Star goes so close to coming down he actually disappears for a fleeting, frightening second.
On the subject of suspensions, a two-meeting ban handed to Douglas Whyte threw another twist into his absorbing battle with Zac Purton at the top of the jockeys’ championship. As it stands Purton trails by four. As well as his “holidays” on June 5 and 8, Whyte will also miss the meeting at Sha Tin on June 2, when he will be in Japan riding Glorious Days in the Yasuda Kinen.
It was 1-1 last night – Whyte winning on Ensemble, and Purton producing an absolute pearler of a ride from gate nine on Golden Harvest .
Purton got a few breaks along the way, including a lapse from Gerald Mosse on Glenealy Star, who could have had the one-off spot with a bit more urgency, but the execution of Purton’s plan was clinical.
It’s amazing how the breaks come for a rider on top of his game. Riding winners can’t just be about luck, otherwise Wong would have more than two this season.