Vincent Ho Chak-yiu will ride Hong Kong’s highest-rated sprinter Peniaphobia at its next start with the shock appointment granting the 26-year-old local a golden big race opportunity.
With Peniaphobia’s regular jockey Matthew Chadwick suspended for the horse’s next start in the Group Two Premier Bowl at Sha Tin, trainer Tony Cruz has called on Ho ahead of a host of established foreign riders.
“It is really important that trainers and owners support the locals, so I want to say thanks to Tony and the owners,” Ho said, just minutes after Cruz called him on Thursday night, with the jockey still unsure of whether the ride is an ongoing commitment or rather a one-off to keep the saddle warm for Chadwick.
“We haven’t discussed that, but either way, it is a great opportunity. This is what every jockey aims for, to ride in the big races and when it comes to a quality ride like this, then it is even better.
"It’s a great ride of course, but I will just do my best as usual – hope I can keep the ride, but if not, that’s okay as well.”
Peniaphobia, last year’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint winner, could start favourite in the Premier Bowl and victory would represent Ho’s biggest ever race win, surpassing his victory aboard Bundle Of Joy in the 2014 Group Three National Day Cup.
Champion apprentice in 2010-11, Ho was leading local rider in 2014-15 with 33 wins and represented Hong Kong in the International Jockeys’ Challenge at Happy Valley that season, but he has always stated that gaining and keeping big race rides was his ultimate aim.
Ho started this season slowly but broke through with two victories last week at Happy Valley, winning with 46-1 outsider Both Lucky and then producing a daring effort on Sichuan Dar to complete a double for former boss Caspar Fownes.
“This is all just thanks to my boss really, he has tried to put me on good rides,” Ho said. “It really depends on your horses and opportunities here.
"It has been very challenging early this season, but things are headed in the right direction, the first few meetings were difficult, just the way races panned out – but last week I got that double and now this, so hopefully that can give me even more momentum.”
A number of other rides are still up for grabs in the Premier Bowl, with champion jockey Joao Moreira yet to decide between Thewizardofoz and Blizzard, while a rider is yet to be confirmed for Group Three National Day Cup winner Amazing Kids.