Two years ago apprentice jockey Kei Chiong Ka-kei took Hong Kong horse racing by storm but today the 25-year-old announced her retirement from the sport, effective immediately, after failing to recovery from a finger injury.
When Chiong returned from a stint in riding New Zealand in 2015 she became the first female jockey to ride full-time at Sha Tin in 15 years.
After a slow start Chiong was able to rise through the ranks, riding an historic four winners in one day, becoming champion apprentice in her first season and winning the inaugural Tony Cruz Award for leading local jockey.
對我來說，今日係一個重大的日子。 我明白會有許多人感到驚訝，同時也充滿著疑問，係依六個月養傷期間我除左比自己手部，膝部休養外，亦都有一段安靜日子比自己細想事業同未來。 係依段時間，我同導師和屋企人商量過，成為一個優秀的騎師，過去是我一直努力的目標，但因為健康理由，要放低策騎事業，再探索將來的路應該怎樣走。我自己好鍾意馬亦都好鐘意運動，希望未來可以係依幾類方面發展。 在賽馬生涯學到很多東西，也得到很多支持及愛載！得到吿東尼獎、香港最受歡迎騎師、在杜拜得到最受歡迎人物獎，一日贏四埸賽事等等，很多寶貴經驗，但因為身體健康的考量和家人討論後，決定要離開這個我很喜歡很熱愛的賽馬事業 ，發展人生新的一頁！ 謝謝一直以來支持我的朋友們！ 一路走來能夠有你們的加油鼓勵，真的真的覺得自己好幸運！ 也非常感謝香港賽馬會，我校長陳念慈以及我的師傅呂健威給予我的所有支持幫助！因為你們～使我能夠有幸在人生的前段就寫下許多成績，這是我最光榮的時刻！ 未來～ 希望自己把正面開心的精神延續！ 開始做更多新的嘗試～ 慢慢的往健康、運動的生活方向發展～ 讓大家繼續感受陽光歡笑的我！ 希望大家也能給我更多的支持及鼓勵！謝謝大家！
A post shared by 蔣嘉琦 KEI CHIONG (@kkchiong) on Jan 7, 2018 at 7:20pm PST
Dubbed the “leading lady” of Hong Kong racing, she was also crowned most popular jockey for that breakout season, winning a fan vote ahead of superstars such as Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte.
Last season Chiong struggled though and after missing the start of this season with a tendon injury she announced her retirement on Sunday on social media platform Instagram.
“Today is a big day to me,” she wrote in Chinese. “I understand it might be a shocking news to many of you, but while taking rest in the past six months, I did try to think ahead for my career and future.
“For the sake of health, I decided to end my career as a jockey and explore a new life. The decision was made after much consideration with my family and trainer.”
Chiong went on to thank her trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai and apprentice school headmistress Amy Chan Lim-chee.
“I will continue my spirit and try out new things, hope all of you will show continued support and again thank you to all of you!”
The high point of Chiong’s career was her four wins on April 10, 2016, the first time a female jockey had ridden four winners in a day in Hong Kong.
Chiong rode 44 winners in New Zealand and a total of 58 winners in Hong Kong, including 37 in that stand-out rookie season.
A Jockey Club release added, from Chiong, “To be a successful jockey in Hong Kong, one has to be 100 per cent committed, both physically and mentally ... It has always been my goal to become an outstanding jockey and I have tried my best to achieve it,” she said. “I am still very interested in horse racing and other kinds of sports. I hope I can continue to develop myself in this respect.”
The Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Authority, Andrew Harding, said: “It has been a pleasure to have Kei in our riding ranks, surely the world’s most competitive, over each of the past two seasons. She has performed admirably during her riding career, which included not just a memorable run to win the inaugural Tony Cruz Award, but several international accolades, including being named Best Lady Apprentice Jockey at the 2017 Darley Awards in California. We wish Kei the best of luck in the future and look forward to offering her whatever assistance we can.”
Chan called Chiong a “hard worker” and reiterated the club’s support for the retiree.
“For any successful athlete, the ability to give your all is absolutely necessary, and after much reflection and discussion with Kei we certainly respect her decision. On behalf of all her colleagues and the staff of the Apprentice Jockeys’ School, I wish her much success in all of her future endeavours.”