Matthew Chadwick is closing in on the Tony Cruz Award for leading local jockey after a fantastic treble at Sha Tin on Friday.
With four meetings of the season left to run, Chadwick has broken through the half-century and sits on 52 winners, five clear of local rival Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, and he feels that the award would be a deserved reward for his efforts over the past few years.
“Hopefully it comes to fruition and I can take it out, but it will just be a stepping stone on the way to what’s to come,” Chadwick said.
“It will be a nice step because I’ve been on such a long road the last few years. The last two or three years has been a slow climb back to where I should have always been.
“I had so many injuries after my apprenticeship that I lost a lot of connections and chances so it was pretty much starting all over again, so it would stand as recognition of going in the right direction.”
The opening race at Sha Tin was a portent of things to come for Chadwick as he took out the Class Five Racing Goes On Handicap (1,200m) aboard M M Johnny.
Held up last in the early stages in what turned out to be the driest conditions of the meeting, Chadwick came with a strong late run down the middle of the track aboard Manfred Man Ka-leung’s runner to beat Theta Hedge by a neck.
The versatile 31-year-old rider employed different tactics when saluting aboard one of Hong Kong’s lowest-rated runners in the Class Five Serving The Community Handicap (1,400m).
Chadwick made most of the running on the 18-rated Sea Monarch as conditions started to deteriorate and came home a shade over two lengths clear of the fast finishing Brave Power, whose runner-up finish was the closest rider Blake Shinn got in his final meeting at Sha Tin.
Chadwick’s treble was completed aboard John Size-trained outsider Leading Fortune in the Class Three Sportsmanship Handicap (1,600m).
The $24 shot looked likely to finish second for much of the straight but got up right on the line to beat Mr Ascendency.
Leading Fortune’s victory means Chadwick has ridden two winners and a second from just three rides for the 11-time champion trainer this season and he hopes that could lead to more opportunities.
“I haven’t had many rides for him this season as he has got his own riders,” Chadwick said. “I made a comment to him after I won that he’s only given me three rides this season, so hopefully I can get a few more rides off him.”
Leading Fortune was the last leg of a treble for Size, who is doing everything he can to keep his title fight with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen alive.
Wins for Power Koepp in the Class Three Better Future Handicap (1,200m) and Bourbonaire in the Class Two Uncompromising Integrity Handicap (1,800m) means Size sits five behind Lor in the trainers’ championship with four meetings remaining.
Bourbonaire was particularly impressive in the conditions and jockey Alexis Badel was full of praise for his mount.
“Obviously he enjoyed the track but he keeps on improving,” Badel said. “Today the key was being in front but it was a demolition job.”