Champions Day has been the scene of some of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu’s finest moments and it’s obvious more dominance at this Sunday’s showcase would provide a welcome boost for the star local jockey.
Like most in the Jockey Club’s “racing bubble”, Ho has battled through the months of suffocating restrictions that prompted Blake Shinn to announce his departure from Hong Kong last week.
“This Covid isolation doesn’t do me any good, mentally it isn’t good at all and my mind needs a break,” he said.
“I just hope it will all be over soon, or at least the government and the Jockey Club can be more open about this thing.
Golden Sixty is back on Sunday! 🤩— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 21, 2022
Can the champ claim back-to-back wins in the G1 FWD Champions Mile at Sha Tin? 🤔#FWDChampionsDay | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/cSB9oz7OyM
“Seeing the whole world improving and everything opening up and jockeys and horses travelling around the world when Hong Kong is going backwards is tough.”
One thing the Covid-19 pandemic will do for Ho is aid him in his pursuit of more Group One glory at Sha Tin this weekend, with Champions Day devoid of international raiders – as well as a crowd – as Hong Kong continues to flounder.
It is the Champions Mile where Ho has a chance to make history after winning his first Group One aboard Southern Legend in the race in 2020 and backing up last year with victory aboard Golden Sixty.
Brett Prebble is the only jockey to win the Champions Mile three times but no one has done it three times in a row and Ho is in the box-seat to enter unchartered territory when he again partners the champion Golden Sixty.
💔 Heartbreak!— Hong Kong Racing (@HongKong_Racing) April 26, 2020
BEAUTY GENERATION beaten a short-head by SOUTHERN LEGEND in the G1 Champions Mile
The champ loses very little in defeat#HKRacing #FWDChampionsDay pic.twitter.com/UGMkCjHK2I
The reigning Horse of the Year returned to his best with victory under a more positive Ho ride in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m) after two losses with excuses and his jockey is excited about what awaits.
“He’s back where he should be, it felt very good that day and he was happy afterwards,” Ho said.
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“To win on him is definitely something really special – words can hardly explain but every time there are goosebumps and every time is different. He’s 100 per cent. He’s right on track and fitter than last time.”
Golden Sixty will look to join Beauty Generation, Xtension, Able One and Bullish Luck as two-time winners of the race but even second place will be enough to make the six-year-old Hong Kong’s highest prize-money earner, with his HK$102,000,600 trailing only Beauty Generation’s HK$106,233,750.
🎌 Throwing it back...— Hong Kong Racing (@HongKong_Racing) April 15, 2022
LOVES ONLY YOU led home a Japan 1-2-3-4 in last year's FWD QEII Cup!#ラヴズオンリーユー | #HKRacingpic.twitter.com/WS0bs8rm8B
Ho already holds a piece of Champions Day history after becoming first home-grown jockey to ride two Group One winners in a day at Sha Tin when he complimented Golden Sixty’s win 12 months ago with victory aboard Japanese raider Loves Only You in the QE II Cup.
Ho partners the Caspar Fownes-trained Zebrowski in the QE II Cup this year and Douglas Whyte’s Stronger in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m).
Ho steered Stronger to a maiden Group One success in January’s Centenary Sprint Cup and he is happy with how the speedster has come out of his eighth in the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) earlier this month.
“Stronger is another good chance, he ran extremely good sectionals in his previous race and he is always there and competitive,” he said.