Michael Cox



No runners, no problems – Slow and steady approach from Richards

Jamie Richards-trained runners have been conspicuous by their absence at the first few meetings of the Hong Kong season but it is all part of the plan for the Kiwi.

Racing fans following the career of Jamie Richards might be wondering why the trainer has yet to have a runner in Hong Kong – let alone a winner – but the first-year handler is confidently playing a patient hand.

Richards has not had a horse among entries for the first five meetings of the term and the trainer told Asian Racing Report this week that he may go the first month of the season without one too.

Fellow first-year trainer Pierre Ng had a winner at the second meeting of the season and had 27 horses among entries for the first five fixtures.

Richards’ steady approach couldn’t contrast more with Ng’s and it isn’t through lack of support – Richards has an impressive 51 horses on his books – it is just as the trainer puts it, like the jurisdiction he is learning about, ‘different’.

“When the transfer horses started to arrive we sort of said to ourselves if we had any chance of improving these horses they needed a bit of a break,” he said. “We put a bit of condition on them and put a spring in their step again.”

When outgoing New Zealand trainer Paul O’Sullivan reflected on his career recently he said that “in Hong Kong, you adapt or die” and it would seem his compatriot Richards has already learned the same lesson.

“It is completely different here in terms of the way that you work them in terms of the heat and humidity and those factors,” Richards said.

“We are just taking our time a little bit in how it all works. The horses that we gave a summer break to, we thought two trials and they should be fit enough and forward enough, to have a little bit of improvement for their second start. That is the theory behind it, hopefully we have our first runners in a few weeks.”


Starfire Gems, who won under the name Matsukaze in Australia, is set to be one of Richards' first runners. (Photo: Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Richards expects his first three runners to be a trio of horses that went around at the most recent Happy Valley barrier trials on September 17; transfers Nothing Impossible and Rattan Kingdom, plus import Starfire Gems (ex Matsukaze), a former Chris Waller trainee by Maurice who has attracted the services of Zac Purton.

The 32-year-old has taken the time to observe his rival trainers and said the patient approach applied to race planning is consistent with a slower approach in the mornings.

“Just don’t do too much with them, basically,” Richards said of what he has learnt. “A lot of trainers swim their horses a lot, probably more than we swim them at home, and everything is pretty easy. (In gallops) they don’t really come off the bridle, if they run quicker than their last couple at 25. At this stage, looking at what John Size, Frankie Lor and Tony Cruz are doing, and they don’t really let the handbrake off at training. We are sort of just following that motto a little bit.”

Richards knows the reality of Hong Kong is that some horses will have to run when uncompetitive in order to find their place in the handicap system but for now it is a case of making a good first impression whenever it is that those first runners go to the races.

“I think everybody is watching at the start and the horses need to go out and perform reasonably well,” he said.

“The way that our horses trialled at Happy Valley on Saturday morning, those three that trialled there, they will be our first runners in a couple of weeks, so hopefully they trialled well enough that they will have some sort of a chance when they do line up.”



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