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Japan-bound Vincent Ho ticks another box on international CV

Vincent Ho’s G1 exploits on Golden Sixty had already led to international recognition, now he has a shot at the JRA during off-season where Japan’s leading jockey Christophe Lemaire says he will be a success.

Vincent Ho ranks gaining a short-term licence to ride in Japan’s top tier as one of his greatest career achievements and the country’s number one rider Christophe Lemaire has backed him to be a success during an upcoming summer stint.

Japanese local media revealed on Thursday that Ho had been granted a licence to ride for one month (July 30 to August 28) during the Hong Kong off-season.

Foreign riders need to meet tough requirements to qualify for a short-term Japan Racing Association deal, which for a Hong Kong rider usually includes finishing third in the competitive Hong Kong Jockey Club jockeys’ championship. 

Ho has not finished better than fourth but back-to-back wins in the Group One Champions Mile aboard Golden Sixty qualified him.

“I think it is a big achievement, everybody knows it is hard to get a short term licence in Japan,” he told Asian Racing Report. “You have to finish top three, even in a major jurisdiction, basically they only want top jockeys from around the world.” 

The 32-year-old is a three time winner of the Tony Cruz Award for leading local rider in Hong Kong and earlier this season passed 400 wins for his career. 

Not only have his Group One exploits aboard Hong Kong’s best horse qualified him for his summer sojourn, they have lifted his international profile, and in 2020 he teamed with Japanese trainer Yoshito Yahagi to win the QEII Cup aboard Loves Only You at Sha Tin.

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Vincent Ho has formed a near unbeatable partnership with Golden Sixty. (Photo by HKJC)

Before Covid kept Hong Kong jockeys at home for the past two off-seasons, Ho would visit France or England each August to build his skills and freshen his mind, but given the stresses of the last two seasons the trip abroad will take on even more significance this time around.

“It will be the first trip overseas since I went to England in 2019 … I still really love the UK, and Europe, the racing there is amazing,” he said. “But getting an opportunity to ride in Japan is so rare that I have to take this chance. It is a box I really want to tick.”

“It is a different style of racing, incredibly strong horses and It is a great experience for me to grow. To be a world class jockey, I need to build this experience riding anywhere I can in the world. It makes my career more enjoyable.”

“To be a world class jockey, I need to build this experience riding anywhere I can in the world. It makes my career more enjoyable.

“I am really looking forward to this summer. I can’t complain, because racing is still going on here but I haven’t been away for more than two years.”

Lemaire, Japan’s leading jockey for the past five years, has taken note of Ho’s global view of the sport and his attitude to skill building.

“I have known Vincent for a long time now, from me going to international races in Hong Kong, and we have some common friends there so we met for lunch and dinner a few times. I hope we can spend some time together here in Japan,” he said.  “He is a very nice guy, a top jockey and I was cheering for him when he rode Loves Only You and won in Hong Kong.”

“As a jockey, he is very experienced now and of course he knows Hong Kong very well, but he deserves to ride at some different places. I think he is the type of jockey that can adapt himself to any racecourse or any horse, so I am really looking forward to seeing him ride in Japan and for him to show what he can do.”

Vincent Ho celebrates the win of Loves Only You in the 2021 QEII Cup (Photo: HKJC)

Of course Ho hopes the trip can lead to more opportunities on Japan’s raiders when they come to Sha Tin.

“To win on a Japanese horse like Loves Only You was great,” he said. “I am realistic that maybe I only got the chance because of COVID, but it still put me in front of them. To be able to execute on a big stage like that and bring them that winner made a difference. It is not easy to make those Japanese connections. But if they ask you to ride, it is a good sign, it means you are pretty capable.”

“But really, this is all because of Golden Sixty, he has brought me a lot of recognition around the world.”

This is all because of Golden Sixty, he has brought me a lot of recognition around the world.

On Golden Sixty, did Ho watch the recent Yasuda Kinen with a hint of regret given connections opted against a first overseas foray for the two-time horse of the year?

“If we went we would have had a great chance,” he said. “We wouldn’t have just been going there for the experience, but with real confidence and a decent chance. There was a changing of the guard there with milers and I think he would have been competitive at his best.”  

“But of course it is hard to say, you never know how he would have recovered after that trip, and in December we have the Hong Kong Mile. Next season the prizemoney is going up here and I think as team Hong Kong, local pride is one of the biggest reasons we want to win this race. 

“The money is good here, and that is the main reason we want to keep him in good condition for next season. Then there is his legacy, we want to keep winning, to extend that record for most prizemoney and wins.”

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