Kings of the turf meet masters of elegance

The city’s leading jockeys will team up with the world’s leading showjumpers in Friday night’s Race of the Riders, which kicks off the Longines Masters of Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 10:11am

One of the things about champions is that they never seem to stop looking for ways to improve themselves.

Daniel Deusser and Joao Moreira have proved that fact in the lead up to Friday night’s HKJC Race of the Riders, a unique event that pairs some of the world’s best show jumpers with local-based jockeys in a relay format over the jumps and forms part of this weekend’s Longines Masters of Hong Kong.

Deusser comes to town ranked the best show jumper in the world by the sport’s ruling body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). Wednesday night saw him out at Happy Valley, listening intently while hoop Neil Callan gave him a lesson in horse racing, Hong Kong-style. The German said, after class was dismissed, that every little bit of information helps.

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“What the jockeys do is horse riding but it’s totally different,” said Deusser, who will partner Callan in Friday’s event.

“I watch it but I don’t have of much of a clue about it. But listening to Neil explain what happens during a race and how they have to ride and all the different conditions they face, and comparing the differences between the two sports in general, gives me an insight into a different way of thinking about horse riding. Any time you think about what you are doing, it helps you.”

Hong Kong knows all about Moreira, a two-time champ with 500 winners under his belt, and he’s most good judge’s pick as the best jockey going around – anywhere. But the Brazilian – who made his Race of the Riders debut last year – revealed that taking on a different form of horse riding had then seen him introduce subtle but effective changes to his own routine.

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Moreira will team with world number 13 Roger-Yves Bost and all the jockeys involved in Friday’s event – Derek Leung Ka-chun (partnering world number five Simon Delestre) and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu

(partnering local equestrian star Jacqueline Lai) round out the field – were at AsiaWorld-Expo on Thursday to get a feel for the jumps, and for the horses they’re guide over them.

You couldn’t escape Moreira’s smile during and after he completed the course.

“These horses are much more easy to deal with,” he said. “They are more quiet. It’s just so much fun. They move differently and for us jockeys to be feeling that is just fantastic.

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“Jockeys can’t have their legs down to guide the horses during the race but in morning trackwork, we can put the legs down and get the horses more balanced and ready for work. That’s the main thing I have brought from show jumping to horse racing. These riders are more calm, too, and don’t seem to be under the same pressure as we are in horse racing so it has made me think about that too. I’m always learning something new with this – and that’s why it’s so enjoyable.”

Friday night’s HKJC Race of the Riders – which will also see local show jumping star Jacqueline Lai in action – kicks off a packed schedule that includes Saturday night’s US$95,000 Longines Speed Challenge and culminates with the staging of the US$400,000 Longines Grand Prix on Sunday.