Jamie Richards went out a winner in New Zealand and the newest addition to Hong Kong’s training ranks is hoping class-dropper Flying On The Turf gets him off to a successful start – albeit it a belated one – in Wednesday night’s second race at Happy Valley.
Unlike the Matamata Racing Club, which badged the penultimate contest of its 10-race card on March 30 “Good Luck Hong Kong-Bound Jamie Richards”, the Jockey Club has not noted the latest landmark event in the Kiwi trainer’s career with a personalised race name.
But winning the first section of the Class Five Island Handicap (1,200m) with Flying On The Turf on Wednesday would mean as much to Richards as winning his last race in New Zealand with Ragamuffin.
“Flying On The Turf probably should’ve won a race in Hong Kong by now, but he hasn’t,” said Richards of the seven-year-old, who arrived in the city after winning two of his eight starts in Australia.
“He’s got quite good form on the dirt. His trials have been encouraging. He’s a horse who’s going to improve for the run, but we need to start him somewhere. It’s his first race in Class Five grade, so hopefully he can jump from barrier two, put himself into the contest and be competitive.”
Fortune Master, who will tackle the second section of the Class Five Island Handicap (1,200m), and Rattan Kingdom, who will run in the second section of the Class Four Wong Chuk Hang Handicap (1,200m), are Richards’ other two representatives on Wednesday’s nine-race programme at Happy Valley.
“Fortune Master is going well. I’m happy with him. I thought his trial at Happy Valley was good when he had the blinkers back on,” said Richards, who has made gear changes for all three of his runners.
“He didn’t appreciate the kickback during his dirt trial at Sha Tin, but he’s drawn a good gate at Happy Valley and he seems to be in good health.
“He’d shown signs of a kissing spine, which we’ve treated him for to help improve his soundness. He’s quite a bit heavier than when he last raced, so he may need the run, but he’s had those two trials.
“Rattan Kingdom has had a couple of trials. We put blinkers on him at Happy Valley and he trialled well, so we’ve decided to leave the shades on.
“His work has been good, but he’s drawn a sticky gate. The C+3 [track] doesn’t make it easy for those horses who are drawn a little wider. Hopefully, he can have some luck in running and feature in the finish.”
Rattan Kingdom’s regular rider, Ruan Maia, will be his partner in Wednesday’s curtain closer, while Richards has booked Luke Ferraris to steer Flying On The Turf and Fortune Master earlier in the night.
“Luke’s ridden a few horses for us at the trials. He’s been in good form in the early part of the season, so we’re happy to support him,” said Richards of the South African jockey, whose Actual versus Expected and Profit on Turnover numbers across his past 100 runners are the best of Hong Kong’s riders.
According to Richards, Ferraris is a jockey to follow. As for horses to note for the future, the trainer synonymous with the likes of Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark has a couple of names in mind.
“Starfire Gems is a horse we quite like. He’s going to kick off shortly. He’s by Maurice, who seems to be an exciting stallion,” said Richards, one of whose former bosses is Jockey Club executive manager of international sales and owners advisory services Danny Rolston.
Rolston mentored Richards when they worked together at New Zealand Bloodstock, so the latter knows more than most people about pedigrees.
“We’ve got a few other unraced horses who are on their way through our system, a couple of private purchases who have come in low rated, and a couple of transfers who look OK. A horse called Sixth Generation, off a low mark, is one to watch,” Richards said.