Jerry Chau Chun-lok has drawn praise from Douglas Whyte and Richard Gibson after a running double to start Sunday’s card and the 21-year-old is trying to stay as focused as possible as the end of his apprenticeship looms.
Victories aboard Gameplayer Times and Cordyceps Six mean Chau has now snared 68 winners from 610 rides since he began his Hong Kong career in May last year, leaving him two victories away from becoming a senior jockey.
“I studied the form yesterday, tried to make sure everything is all right and tried to make sure I’m sharp,” said a matter-of-fact Chau.
While the jockey was succinct in his assessment, the beneficiaries of his work in the saddle where happy to elaborate.
Chau’s first success came for boss Douglas Whyte in the Class Four Cuckoo Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track, with Brazilian Group One winner Gameplayer Times breaking his Hong Kong maiden at start 14.
Chau took a sit behind the leaders aboard Gameplayer Times in a race that was slow early but nearly a second inside standard for the final six furlongs.
The six-year-old travelled beautifully in a messy race before sneaking up inside Toycoon in the straight and pulling away to win by two and three-quarter lengths.
“Jerry rode a 10-out-of-10 race. It’s easy to watch it from the public’s point of view, he was sitting box seat – but they were going terribly slow, so he could have been in all sorts of trouble,” Whyte said.
“He could have been very unlucky going past the line with nowhere to go. But he rode a heady race, he stuck to the rail instead of trying to force his way out.
“He rode with confidence, he waited for the horse in front to roll off the rail and it was the winning move. If he tried to come out, he would have run into trouble. It just shows the young man is now riding with a lot of confidence and he deserves to be winning races.”
Chau impressed Gibson after taking the initiative aboard Cordyceps Six in the Class Four Hwamei Handicap (1,000m).
Chau sat off the outside rail in midfield from gate 10 aboard Cordyceps Six before taking the $8.70 chance towards clear air in the middle of the track and allowing the three-year-old to hit the line for his second win at start five after he saluted at $108 in Griffin grade last season.
“First-up this season he actually ran a good race but we were drawn on the other side. Today it was a big advantage having the apprentice and I thought he made a very brave move in the latter stages of the race,” said Gibson after snaring his first victory of the new season.
“Going wide on the straight is often difficult but he accelerated well and did the job. It was a brave move because often you want to come on the stands side, I was a bit worried when he suddenly went out but the horse had the class and the ability to get to the line. Today with a better draw he was always going to be tough to beat.”
Apolar’s bumpy road to success
After a roller-coaster journey which included a scary crash, Apolar Warrior has finally made it to the winner’s circle.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s five-year-old was involved in a terrifying accident early in his career when he dislodged rider Derek Leung Ka-chun just after the start before tearing around Sha Tin and crashing through the outside rail and a cyclone fence.
Thankfully, he emerged largely unscathed from the incident in July 2020 and after knocking on the door for much of last season, he finally repaid the faith of connections in the Class Five Lark Handicap (1,650m).
Harry Bentley settled Apolar Warrior in midfield from barrier five, before finding clear room at the top of the straight and racing away to beat Crown Avenue by two and a quarter lengths in a class-record time of 1:38.3.
The result was a pleasing one for Yiu, giving the 2019-20 champion trainer his first victory of the term.
“[He’s a] very late maturing horse, physically and mentally, [and is] only starting to show a bit of determination in the last two runs,” Yiu said.
“He’s OK on the dirt because it’s a bit softer for him. He can handle turf also. He’s near the bottom of Class Five, so he should be able perform well again. The horse needed to win and Harry himself needed a winner, so it’s good.”
There was some fallout from an incident earlier in the race though, with Tony Piccone outed for two meetings for careless riding aboard Zelus.
Yip on the double
Dennis Yip Chor-hong enjoyed a good afternoon at Sha Tin on Sunday, taking home a double after the performances of Happy Time and Solar Power.
Matthew Chadwick kicked things off with a terrific ride aboard Happy Time in the Class Four Magpie Handicap (1,200m), ducking down to the rail from barrier 10 and taking all the short cuts in running.
It proved the winning move as the eight-year-old held off Chris So Wai-yin’s fast-finishing debutant King Of The Court by the narrowest of margins.
Antoine Hamelin had an easier time of things on Solar Power in the Class Four Sunbird Handicap (1,400m), rolling straight to the front from the outside gate and never being headed.
The five-year-old streeted his rivals, coming away to beat Sunny Baby by two and three-quarter lengths with Kung Fu Tea in third.
Lo hitting his stride in Australia
Former Hong Kong apprentice Gary Lo King-yeung enjoyed his biggest day in the saddle, collecting the Listed Wylie Handicap in Adelaide as part of a winning double on Saturday.
Lo, who was sacked by the Jockey Club last year for conduct issues before riding in a race, lifted Free Of Debt to victory at $20 in the feature at Morphettville, while also guiding Huffington home for his boss Phillip Stokes earlier in the day. The 22-year-old now has seven winners from 53 rides this season.
“What a big day I will remember,” Lo tweeted.
Meanwhile, ex-Hong Kong galloper Gold Win – who now races as Dice Roll – finished second in the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield in Melbourne on Saturday, narrowly edged out by Sierra Sue.