The Jockey Club has received about 300 racing-trainee applications halfway through its recruitment period, and expects the number to be greater than that of any year since it began the exercise three years ago. About 30 per cent of the applicants are female, and the age of the would-be jockeys ranges up to 30, while the minimum age requirement is 15. Anyone who meets the age requirement and has at least a Form Three education can apply for the 36-week training programme, which provides a monthly salary of HK$7,700, free accommodation and subsidised meals. Beginning on September 14, the course includes horse skills, such as riding techniques, and stable management together with subjects such as Chinese, English and computer operation. 'Jockeying used to be an occupation plagued by nepotism, and many talented people were lost. Now we are trying to turn things around and look for top jockey hopefuls openly,' said the headmistress of the Apprentice Jockeys' School, Amy Chan Lim-chee. The school will draw up a shortlist of 200 candidates for a fitness test, then 60 for an interview, and in the end 20 will be chosen for the programme. The recruitment runs until July 26. On completion of the foundation course, talented trainees will be invited to join the Apprentice Jockeys' School, where they will have a chance to work with local stables for a year and compete in races overseas for another year. The school recruited 12 racing trainees last year, four of whom are apprentice jockeys. Ms Chan said the course demanded mental discipline. 'Smoking is not allowed among trainees. They have to understand it doesn't help their training at all. If they have doubt about this, I let them find out when they experience their failing health through arduous exercises.' Ms Chan said it was essential to address the issue of drug abuse and she would give the trainees the necessary moral training. Kevin Leung Ka-wai, 21, who joined the programme riding horses three years ago, has just returned from having 250 races in Tasmania and will take part in professional races from September as an apprentice jockey. 'It's important to be determined. From the day I took the programme I have been wanting to be a jockey, and I have overcome many obstacles since then,' he said.