Name: Alex Lai Hoi-wing Age: 22 Occupation: Apprentice jockey Young Post: Why did you become an apprentice jockey? Lai: Given my small build and athletic body, my neighbours and relatives always said I would make a good jockey. After I finished my HKCEE in 2000, I saw that the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) was recruiting apprentice jockey trainees. My family sent in my application and the HKJC employed me. YP: Is your job exciting? L: Absolutely! I love the speed. Galloping on a horse around the racetrack is very exciting. Since I became a licensed apprentice jockey in 2003, I have won 48 matches in Hong Kong. Whenever I pass the finish line, the crowds in the grandstand cheer, and I feel really proud of myself. YP: You had to undergo a lot of training before you became a racing apprentice jockey. How was it? L: The training provided by the HKJC was hard. Before I got my licence, I spent a year and a half in Double Fish River Riding School in Sheung Shui where I led a regimented life. I had to get up at 4am every day and clean and feed the horses. In the afternoon, I would ride for about an hour. After that, I attended English lessons. Before dusk, I would go back to the stables and make sure the horses were comfortable. In 2002, I moved to Sha Tin racecourse, where I was paired up with different horse trainers who trained me on an individual basis. They taught me riding skills and how to communicate with horses. I also had to attend computer and communication skills lessons. During summer, the HKJC arranged overseas training for me. I went to the United Kingdom and Australia, where I won several championships. YP: How do you control the horses? L: I like animals a lot and I get along with horses well. Different horses have different dispositions. You need different techniques to deal with different horses. Some horses are shy and slow. You need to scold them to make them obey your orders. Some are feisty and difficult to control. You need to be stronger than they are, and let them know that you are in charge. From my years of horse-riding experience, I can tell you that the champion horses are always the feisty ones with attitude. I have to adopt a very stern attitude to make them do what I want. YP: What is the most unforgettable moment of your career so far? L: In 2005, I participated in the Emirates International Apprentice Jockeys' Championship in Dubai. The competition was divided into three races. I won the first race, but slipped in the second and third races. I came third overall. But when I returned to Hong Kong, I was told that the champion had tested positive for banned substances and was disqualified. After the marks had been recalculated, I was crowned one of the joint champions. I was so lucky. When the cup arrived from Dubai, I felt so happy. Resume 2000: Graduated from Form Five and started working for the Hong Kong Jockey Club as an apprentice jockey trainee 2000: Began training at Double Fish River Riding School in Sheung Shui 2002: Began training at the Sha Tin racecourse 2003: Became a licensed apprentice jockey 2005: Won the championship in an international race for apprentice jockeys in Dubai How to get there Programme: Elementary Riding Course School: Tuen Mun Public Riding School Duration: three months to a year Characteristics: The weekly lessons teach learners riding skills and basic knowledge of horses. Children aged between six and 14 must weigh below 46kg and adults aged 15 or above must weigh below 77kg. Course fee: $290 per 45 minutes for children and $360 per an hour for adults Enquiries: 2461 3338 Programme: Riding Course for Beginners School: Tai Yuen Riding Club (in Yuen Long) Duration: Depends on the progress of the riders Characteristics: Beginners will learn basic riding techniques, such as 'walking', 'trotting' and 'cantering'. Learners can decide how many lessons they want to take per week. Course fee: $400 per hour Enquiries: 2471 8492 The path There are fixed progression paths for apprentice jockeys under the Jockey Club. Apprentice jockeys get a basic salary of HK$8,500 per month. If they win a race, they are awarded a cash prize. After passing all the fitness and attitude tests, they become licensed apprentice jockeys. Once they have been issued a licence, they must win 60 local races within six years to become a freelance jockey.