South African rookie Grant van Niekerk may have taken all before him during his first month in Hong Kong but the co-leader of the jockeys’ championship is yet to notch a win at Happy Valley.
While the 27-year-old has only had nine rides at the inner-city venue, he says he has quickly learned some of the nuances that come with riding at the tight and undulating track.
Fresh off a Sha Tin double on Saturday, Van Niekerk is quickly building a name for himself, grabbing rides for some of the top trainers, including 10-time champion John Size.
He comes to Happy Valley on Wednesday with six rides, but concedes he will be riding for luck on two of his best chances after drawing wide barriers with both of them.
Both Raichu and Gold Velvet have drawn barrier 10, leaving Van Niekerk with limited options.
“Happy Valley is a bit tighter and obviously they go a little bit quicker, I think if you have a horse that is pretty quick underneath you and comes brilliantly off the bends, it will help you a lot,” he said.
“If you have a lazy horse, you will probably lose ground and get there too late. It comes down a lot to the horse but there is a lot of tactical riding involved, you have to hope for luck in the running. Obviously the barrier draws help a lot.”
After a flashing finish first-up, Raichu has been stepped up in distance by trainer David Ferraris to 1,200m, a trip Van Niekerk says will be much more suitable.
“He ran on really well last time, I had a bad draw to contend with there and I have another bad draw to contend with tomorrow so I will be hoping for luck in the running, I just have to give him a chance and hopefully I can get my first win at Happy Valley,” he said.
“He’s doing really good, he’s a horse that is a bit funny at trackwork, he holds the bit on the one side and doesn’t give you much of a feel but in the races he is completely different. He is more focused on his racing and that says a lot about him, I am hoping he can put it together again.”
Since arriving in Hong Kong, Van Niekerk has struck up a formidable partnership with fellow South African Tony Millard, combining for three wins in just seven starts. The pair will combine four more times at Happy Valley.
“I am really grateful for his support and as long as I keep producing, I won’t be suspended by him,” Van Niekerk joked.