Like many of his colleagues, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was visibly worn out at the end of last campaign, and he outlined as early as April just how much months of lockdowns had weighed on him mentally.
But while most Hong Kong jockeys opted to do as little as possible during the off-season in a bid to recharge, Ho’s short-term riding stint in Japan – while physically taxing – offered him the perfect source of rejuvenation.
A fortnight into the new Hong Kong campaign, Ho looks back on his four-week stay in the Land of the Rising Sun as the ideal outlet.
“The summer was great. Although Japan was very busy, it was a great experience and I met a lot of great people,” he said.
“Riding there was good. I’m still a bit tired from the trip, but my mind is refreshed after getting out of Hong Kong. Most importantly, I feel good mentally.
“After having a summer off, mentally I’m much better. From the middle of last season until the end was tough after the lockdown and being in a little bubble by myself basically between the racecourse and home, it was tough on my mind.”
Ho landed five winners from 64 rides in Japan and has hit the ground running with five winners from the first four meetings on home soil, saluting at least once on every card.
“It’s all going OK and hopefully I can keep the momentum going. I’m looking forward to the big races to come,” Ho said.
CHAMPION! 👑— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 24, 2022
Golden Sixty wins his second G1 FWD Champions Mile for @Vincenthocy & Francis Lui, becoming Hong Kong's highest earner in history with HK$113,400,600! 💰#FWDChampionsDay | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/91vtcKIw05
It’s been an impressive start from Ho after his output slowed somewhat last term.
But while Ho relinquished the Tony Cruz Award for leading local jockey to Matthew Chadwick after claiming it three years running, his haul of 50 winners still put him fifth in the premiership, and he snared three Group One victories – two thanks to Golden Sixty and one courtesy of Stronger.
After galloping his chief partner in crime, Golden Sixty, three times this month, Ho is counting down the days to his return in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile on November 20.
“We will do a few more gallops, maybe even a grass gallop, and then trial. We would like to work him a little bit earlier than last season, but already he didn’t feel heavy when I first jumped on him this season, whereas last season he was still heavy,” the jockey said.
In the meantime, Ho will look to maintain the momentum that has him equal second with Karis Teetan in the jockeys’ premiership, behind only Zac Purton’s eight winners.
The 32-year-old has eight chances to add to his tally at Sha Tin on Sunday and will look to maintain his unblemished record aboard Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Universal Horizon.
Ho steered the four-year-old to victory on debut in the final week of last term and hopes the son of Shalaa will come on from a recent trial.
“He’s progressive, he’s still a colt, and he’s got a bit stronger,” he said. “He didn’t perform that well in his dirt trial, but in his grass gallop he felt good. Hopefully, it’s just the difference between the dirt and the turf, not his fitness or ability.”