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Pierre Ng grew up at Sha Tin Racecourse but now takes a seat in the trainers’ stand after a stand-out career as an assistant.
Hong Kong parents can be reserved in praise for their children but local training legend Peter Ng could not hide his delight after his highly credentialed son Pierre gained a Jockey Club licence on Friday.
“I am more than happy. This is one million times better than winning any race,” he said. “I am really proud of him. I was the first person he called after receiving the news.”
Peter Ng is a notoriously closed-mouth trainer from the golden era of Hong Kong racing but when contacted by Asian Racing Report after Friday’s announcement, the 74-year-old was beaming.
His son was considered one of the leading candidates to earn a seat in the Sha Tin trainer’s stand after compiling an impressive record as an assistant trainer. First, for Paul O’Sullivan, with whom he was traveling foreman with the outstanding sprinter Aerovelocity, then with John Size and, most recently, Francis Lui. Ng lifted Lui from mid table to championship contender while forming an association with Hong Kong’s two-time reigning horse of the year Golden Sixty.
Before that Pierre was senior trackwork rider with his father and in 2012-13, the final campaign of the wily veteran’s 30-year career, they won 34 races together. It was career best for Peter, but remarkably, every trainer Pierre has served as assistant to has also logged some kind of career high – even the incomparable Size, whose stable earned a Hong Kong record HK$176,441,240 with Ng as his lieutenant in 2017-18.
Despite the top shelf CV, Hong Kong’s newest handler has walked an unconventional career path and was initially pushed away from the game by his father, who won more than 460 races, including ten with the versatile champion Quicken Away in the late 1980s and early 90s.
“I told him not to be a trainer,” Ng said. “He would be facing so many difficult things. It’s not easy to become a trainer here, let alone make a living, there is so much competition.”
Most local trainers come via a well-worn path of apprentice school or stable staff, to trackwork rider or foreman, and along through the system to “AT”, but as a youngster, Ng travelled offshore and broadened his worldview. Even after heeding his father’s advice and heading to Sydney to earn a Bachelor of Science in Safety Science and Japanese Studies at the University of New South Wales, Pierre soon found himself pulled back to the sport and worked early morning shifts at nearby Randwick under David Payne.
“I guess we couldn’t keep him away from it,” Peter said. “He would park his car there and go and work before school, even on a Sunday.”
Pierre returned and was granted a trackwork rider licence to work with his father in 2006 but only before passing a riding test, for which he needed to strip close to 30 kilograms from his 182cm frame to get down to the requisite weight.
[Pierre] grew up at Sha Tin Racecourse, we lived there in the apartments, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at where he is now.
“He has been determined, this is his dream, and maybe it is meant to be,” Peter said. “I started training the year Pierre was born, 1983. He was born in August, and I started training in September. He grew up at Sha Tin Racecourse, we lived there in the apartments, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at where he is now.”
Perhaps most impressive of all is that Pierre has not yet reached 40 and has bolstered his racing education by spending off-seasons offshore in the United States at Saratoga under Bill Mott and in Australia under Chris Waller and Mick Price.
Speaking to Asian Racing Report at Ascot on Friday, Waller recalled his impressions of Ng.
“He was a great listener and it was clear that he had great ambitions,” Waller said.
“I think the trainers that you see do well have respect for where they come from and have respect for racing and that would be something I think Pierre has.”
Ng joins Jamie Richards as one of the two new faces on next season’s 22-man roster and is left with the challenge of building a stable from scratch over the next three months.
“It is late for a new trainer to get things prepared,” Peter admitted. “Jamie Richards was told he was licensed in March and Pierre was licensed today, so he has a three month start.”
Still, despite the sharp turnaround, Pierre will have a ready shoulder to lean on if he wants some wisdom from Peter, who has worked as a racing columnist since his retirement and is a regular visitor to trackwork.
“I have some spare time, actually, around 24 hours per day of spare time,” he said. “I am enjoying life with a lot of hiking and watching football. I think I have walked every hike in Hong Kong, so I am happy to offer any help if Pierre asks. Still, I am sure he will do just fine on his own. He has worked hard and is very talented.”
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