No jockey walks into Hong Kong thinking things are going to be easy and for many, their expectations are exceeded.
But while Luke Currie came to Hong Kong in January “knowing it was going to be hard work”, he could not have predicted the roller-coaster ride that was to follow.
Rushed into the city to beat an impending flight ban before completing three weeks of quarantine, Currie then stepped straight into the Jockey Club’s “racing bubble” and the months of lockdowns that came with it.
After posting a winner with his first Hong Kong ride, the 41-year-old fractured his T7 vertebra in a barrier trial fall following just two race meetings in the saddle and spent more than two months on the sidelines.
Currie was confined to a hospital bed for two weeks and, with his family still in Australia, admitted to feeling isolated during his recovery.
No one would have begrudged the Australian if he’d packed his bags, but he hung in there, eking out another eight winners to give himself cause for optimism as he headed home for the off-season.
Now, after tasting success for the first time this campaign at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Currie’s persistence looks like it could begin to pay off.
The winds of change are blowing through the Hong Kong riding ranks, with Joao Moreira out for three months and not guaranteed to return and Zac Purton’s outstanding career in its twilight.
Karis Teetan is also out indefinitely, meaning opportunities have opened up in a place where there are traditionally very few.
“It’s a little bit of a changing of the guard at the moment. I came here knowing it was going to be hard work, and I’ve come back this season knowing it’s going to be hard work, but hopefully, with things changing, there might be a few more opportunities,” said Currie, a 13-time Group One winner.
One such opportunity comes in the Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m) at Sha Tin on Saturday, with Currie climbing aboard the best horse he’s ridden in Hong Kong so far, the Caspar Fownes-trained Sky Field, in Teetan’s absence.
“It’s a nice pick up and he’s obviously a really nice horse. Just to get on some better quality horses is nice and it definitely makes it easier going to the races,” Currie said.
🏆Hong Kong Sprint (G1)— 𝙒𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙𝙍𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙜 (@WorldRacing1) December 12, 2021
1200m, 24.000.000 HKD, for 3yo+
Sky Field (AUS)
(5G Deep Field - Laravissante, by Oreilly)
J : B. Shinn
T :C. Fownes
O : Kwan Shiu Man, Jessica Kwan Mun Hang & Jeffrey Kwan Chun Ming
🥉 Courier Wonderpic.twitter.com/bPPA8IBheU
“I haven’t had a chance to sit on him yet, but obviously I’ve watched a few of his replays and I’ve seen him here at trackwork.
“He’s a nice style of horse and he’ll be running on. Hopefully, he can be close enough to be running over the top of them. It would be nice to stick with him if I ride him well and he runs well.”
Currie also partners debutant Big Me for Fownes this weekend and he expects a solid showing from the four-year-old in the Class Four Chongqing Handicap (1,000m).
“He’s an interesting one. I had the chance to work him through the week, and I thought he worked quite well. He looked like he trialled quite well, so he should make his presence felt,” the jockey said.
Just as things are showing promise on the track, there is also more positivity off it after Currie’s wife, Sophia, and daughters, Mia and Miley, joined him in Hong Kong recently.
“They’ve been here since we came back from the break. My two little girls have just started their school here, and my wife is keen to get a horse to ride. She likes her equestrian riding,” Currie said.
“We’re setting up and hopefully we’re here for a while. It’s still hard work and you’ve got to work at it, but it’s nice to go home and have my family there around me. It does make it easier.”