Manfred Man Ka-leung has been granted a trainer’s licence for the 2023-24 season, with the Jockey Club casting aside the updated licensing criteria it announced last year to ensure the veteran handler can continue past the age of 65.
While in July the Jockey Club expanded the ways in which a trainer could qualify to continue past the standard retirement age – things like winning premierships, regular top-five finishes and consistently high prize-money earnings – Man does not meet those requirements.
But with the unassuming handler on track to beat his previous personal best of 43 winners in a season, officials have moved the goalposts to put an end to months of uncertainty and ensure he can continue his career for at least one more term.
Man declared as recently as last Sunday he is eager to continue into what will be his 23rd season training in Hong Kong.
He has 21 winners to his name through 41 of the season’s 88 meetings and has been particularly potent in the Year of the Rabbit, leading in four winners from the past three meetings.
Also helping the 65-year-old’s case is the fact he has Lucky Sweynesse in his stable, Hong Kong’s fifth-highest rated horse and a galloper Man has already declared the best horse he has trained.
A good week could get all that much better for Man at Sha Tin on Sunday, with Lucky Sweynesse looking to land a first Group One for horse and trainer in the Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m).
Man’s extension comes at a time when Michael Chang Chun-wai and Peter Ho Leung are battling to avoid a third strike for failing to meet the trainers’ win benchmark, which could see them stripped of their licences at season’s end.
The move to extend Man’s licence with over five months remaining in the campaign gives the Jockey Club added certainty around what its training ranks will look like next term and provides Man and his owners the clarity they have craved.
In other licensing committee news, officials formalised the extensions of Hugh Bowman and Silvestre de Sousa after both jockeys declared their desire to remain in Hong Kong past the end of their contracts later this month.
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The pair have added much-needed star power to a roster that recently lost Joao Moreira and flagged during the pandemic, with the Jockey Club struggling to attract big names while the Hong Kong government persisted with some of the world’s most stringent Covid-19 measures.
De Sousa sits third in the premiership with 32 wins, while Bowman has moved rapidly up the ranks since arriving in November and occupies sixth spot with 19 victories.