COMMENT | Japan has stolen a march on Hong Kong in attracting the big name jockeys
With Hong Kong seemingly on the verge of relaxing Covid restrictions, the HKJC must do all it can to bring in the world's best riders.
Hong Kong racing is about to start playing catch-up; and it needs to. After more than two and a half years of government-led Covid-19 quarantine restrictions, the jurisdiction for so long lauded as a world leader has lost its position as the most desired short-term go-to for star jockeys from Australia and Europe.
Instead, those big names with ambitions overseas, deterred in large part by the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s (HKJC) own strict pandemic quarantine requirements, have in the past year looked beyond Hong Kong’s lucrative spoils to the high returns available on the Japan Racing Association (JRA) circuit. Japan is now the prime destination.
Melbourne big-hitter Damian Lane enjoyed a lucrative spring season there this year and the JRA’s recently revealed all-star cast of riders to have applied for and been offered licences for the coming autumn-winter season is exactly the calibre of jockey that would have been heading to Hong Kong in years gone by: Ryan Moore, Christophe Soumillon, Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand, Bauyrzhan Murzabayev and the rising star David Egan.
But comments by HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges in the local press this week indicated that Hong Kong is about to get back in the game. With word doing the rounds in the city that the government may roll back its quarantine requirements, the line from Engelbrecht-Bresges was that if it does happen, the HKJC is going to pull out the stops to bring in top riders, and that there has been communication with a number of those in recent weeks, to follow the latest arrival, Silvestre de Sousa.