Rising star Jerry Chau Chun-lok continues to take Hong Kong racing by storm, maintaining his remarkable recent run with a treble at Happy Valley on Wednesday night that included one effort described as “his ride of the season” by boss Douglas Whyte.
The 13-time champion jockey-turned-trainer has typically been pretty reserved when it comes to praising his apprentice, but he was incredibly proud of his performance aboard Rainbow Light in the Class Four Green Lane Handicap (1,650m).
The Irish-bred four-year-old can be a tricky horse to ride – he’s got ability but thinks the job is done as soon as he hits the front – and Chau followed his instructions to the letter.
He got on the back of the favourite Savvy Kingman after jumping from barrier seven, settling one-out, one-back to ensure the perfect run in transit.
The rest of his rivals were going for home as they turned into the straight, but Chau kept his nerve and sat still, waiting until the last 150m before pulling the persuader and going on to beat Nothing New by a half-length.
It was a ride that belied his age and experience – it was pretty to watch – and Whyte was effusive in his analysis of his protégé afterwards.
“It was 10 out of 10 – Jerry won the race,” he said. “We discussed it beforehand, it was about riding the horse with confidence and not hitting the front too soon.
“He’s a very young, immature horse from the northern hemisphere so he doesn’t know what he’s doing 100 per cent yet but Jerry rode him like a senior jockey. You wouldn’t get a much better ride than that – it’s probably his ride of the season.”
The victory was the middle peg of a treble for the 21-year-old, who also took out the opener with the Benno Yung Ting-pang-trained Sure Win Win and the seventh on Simply Fluke, a second success for his mentor.
Chau now has 56 winners this season – including seven so far this month – and is just two behind Vincent Ho Chak-yiu in the race for the Tony Cruz Award as the leading local jockey.
There are only two meetings left to bridge that gap, but given the way he is performing, you wouldn’t put it past him.
“He’s riding very well and, if he manages to get the award, he deserves it,” said Whyte, who also brought up his 40th winner for the season.
“For a young apprentice to be achieving what he is at the moment is phenomenal and that ride tonight should be taken into the perspective of how he’s improved as a rider and how he is addressing himself as a professional.
“A lot of people wouldn’t understand – that was a very confident ride and a very heady ride [on Rainbow Light]. I know it’s only a Class Four, but he put that horse in a position, he followed the favourite and he waited and he was vulnerable.
“But when you’re riding with confidence you can do things like that and it is just lovely to see a young man flourishing.”
For his part Chau remains humble despite his incredible success this season, which has seen him set a record for wins by an apprentice, smashing Matthew Chadwick’s previous mark of 43 from 2008-09.
“It’s been great, the form has been good. Thanks to my boss and also Mr Benno Yung for supporting me,” Chau said. “I’ve been very lucky to get on some good horses lately.”
Paul O’Sullivan was the only other trainer to have multiple winners on the card, saluting with Ka Fortune (Neil Callan) and Faribault (Karis Teetan), while Zac Purton finished his campaign with a double, tasting success with Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s Fire Ball and Everyone’s Delight from the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen stable.