He stepped straight out of the cut and thrust of Melbourne’s Spring Carnival into a “hectic” first couple of days in Hong Kong, but Jye McNeil says his head has stopped spinning in time for Saturday’s Sha Tin meeting.
After arriving in Hong Kong on Sunday night, McNeil has spent the week learning the ropes and heads to Sha Tin with four rides this weekend.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming here because I’ve never been to Hong Kong before,” McNeil said.
“Because I’m unfamiliar with things, the first couple of days things went really fast for me.
“Now I know a bit more about what’s going on, things have slowed down and I’ve been able to get my head around it a bit more. But it was definitely going at a hectic pace for the first couple of days.
“I’m settling in, getting used to the routine and what goes on, so hopefully I can take that progression into week two.”
Australian McNeil, who won the 2020 Melbourne Cup aboard the Joseph O’Brien-trained Twilight Payment, is licensed in Hong Kong until December 22 and rides abroad for the first time since he was an apprentice.
“I did two international apprentice stints, which were both weekly stays in South Africa and South Korea. We only did one meeting – four rides at both venues. That’s the only international experience I’ve had,” the 27-year-old said.
McNeil’s first Hong Kong ride comes aboard the Richard Gibson-trained Sunshine Legendary, and he also partners Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Adefill before jumping on Benno Yung Tin-pang-trained pair Yes We Can and Excellent Daddy.
It is aboard Yes We Can in the Class Three Panasonic Mini Ice Food Freezer Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track McNeil’s best chance of making an immediate impact comes.
The seven-year-old is in a rich vein of form, rocketing 17 points in the ratings with consecutive victories by a combined six and three-quarter lengths.
Those two successes came under reigning champion jockey Zac Purton, but with Yes We Can jumping in grade and carrying only 116 pounds as a result, McNeil gets his chance.
“With the light weight on his back and with the right run, he looks as though he can accelerate really well,” McNeil said.
“I’ve got to give him a good ride and hopefully he can take care of the rest. I’m just grateful to get the opportunities, but especially on this horse, of course.
“He’s in form, he’s obviously got to step up to Class Three grade, but with that weight relief, I’m sure he’ll be thereabouts.”
McNeil is busy building relationships early in his tenure and trialled horses for Jamie Richards and Douglas Whyte at Sha Tin on Friday morning.
While he maintains he wants to have his wife Jess and two-year-old son Oakley home for Christmas, McNeil did not go as far as completely ruling out an extension to his Hong Kong sojourn.
“I’d never say never but I haven’t give it much thought at this stage, apart from wanting to get home for Christmas to be around the family for the little one and my wife, Jess. We’ll see how things go,” he said.