It seems incongruous that the jockey with the third best strike-rate in Hong Kong doesn’t have a ride at Sunday’s Happy Valley meeting, but that’s where Ruan Maia finds himself.
Fresh off a double (from three rides) at Sha Tin on Wednesday night, the Brazilian has the weekend off, which is less than ideal given he’s healthy and has a two-day suspension looming in the middle of November.
Maia is the most profitable jockey in Hong Kong – a HK$10 investment on all 30 of his rides would have netted a cool HK$577 – and his winning strike-rate of 13.3 per cent is third only to Zac Purton (24.5) and Joao Moreira (14.7), who have split the past eight titles between them and routinely get the best mounts.
Jockeys need opportunities to perform and the 33-year-old’s have been limited – both in terms of quality and quantity.
Only Tony Piccone (16), who is coming off an ankle fracture, and Victor Wong Chun (21) have had fewer rides while just six of Maia’s have started single-figure odds – and those have netted two wins and two placings. He’s had more jump at triple-figures (seven), incredibly finishing third on two of them.
But that is the fickle nature of the jurisdiction. Trainers and owners are quick to slot you into a position within the theoretical hierarchy and it can take a while to change perception, particularly when bookings happen weeks out.
While the situation is obviously frustrating, Maia – who sits 11th on the championship table with four winners – remains humble and determined.
“I have not had many rides this season, but I will continue to work hard and try and get more support,” Maia said.
“I’m very, very happy [about Wednesday night]. This is my first double in Hong Kong and I am extremely grateful to Francis Lui [Kin-wai), Manfred Man [Ka-leung] and David Hayes and the other trainers who have given me opportunities.”
Speaking of unlucky jockeys, Piccone has been given the green light to return to the races after month on the sidelines but only has one ride at the city track on Sunday.
That is aboard the David Ferraris-trained Green Laser, who has struggled in four Hong Kong runs despite being a Group Three winner and Group One runner-up in South Africa, and he will probably need some more time to acclimatise and drop in rating before being competitive.
On the training side of things, there are two handlers currently enduring rough runs but they both have chances to break their extended run of outs at the rare daytime Valley card.
Paul O’Sullivan remains the only winless trainer – he’s had six placings from 56 runners – but Faribault looks one of the leading chances in the Class Four Shenzhen Handicap (1,200m) after coming up with barrier two.
An outside draw didn’t help for his first-up run, forcing him to go back, but Karis Teetan should be able to settle much closer to the speed this time around and he can be in the finish.
The other trainer who would relish a winner right now is last season’s champion Caspar Fownes, whose run of outs has reached 54 after most recently tasting success on September 22.
He’s had 12 placings since then, so he’s knocking on the door, and the “King of the Valley” saddles up seven on Sunday, including Kurpany who looks a strong chance in the Class Two Guangzhou Handicap (1,000m).
The sprinter has drawn perfectly in barrier three and Alexis Badel can take advantage of the small field – he only has six opponents – to break the drought.