Richards stable to benefit from Easter buys

Hong Kong buyers were active at Inglis this week, among them Jamie Richards who is finding his feet in his new sphere after a slow start, and his five Easter purchases signal valuable support from his owners.

Jamie Richards' first season training in Hong Kong is continuing to gather momentum. (Photo by HKJC)

David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Jamie Richards has enjoyed a buoyant few days down in Sydney for the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale. After spending Sunday, the eve of the auction, running his eyes over yearlings at Riverside Stables, he watched with friends in a bar as, back in Hong Kong, Romantic Laos and Alacrity gave him his first Sha Tin double; two days later, he had acquired five exciting prospects destined, he hopes, to one day add to his growing tally of wins.

“It was good to celebrate that (double) among friends, and hopefully the next one won’t be too far away,” Richards told Asian Racing Report.

The way his stable is performing at present, another two-timer seems likely: from the past two fixtures Richards has had seven runners for three wins, taking his debut season’s running total to 23. That is a smart return given the slow start to his Hong Kong career, and the performance of his Olympic Stables string in recent months appears to have instilled confidence in his owners.

Richards – in tandem with agent Andrew Williams – was among 11 Hong Kong buyers that picked up 22 yearlings between them at a total cost of AU$7.28 million (US$4.9 million). That total included five purchased by Asian Bloodstock Services for a combined AU$2.135 million (US$1.4 million), and a trio acquired for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s international sale at a cost of AU$2.13 million (US$1.4 million).

And, as if to emphasise the intent of Hong Kong buyers seeking a quality prospect in and around the middle market, Maurice Koo, a client of Magus Equine’s Willie Leung, pushed his spend to AU$500,000 (US$337,500) for the sale’s one son of the Shadai to Arrowfield shuttler Maurice. That transaction came in the aftermath of Maurice’s Jack D’Or’s Osaka Hai success, which gave the burgeoning stallion his third JRA Group 1 triumph.



Jack D'Or, a son of Maurice, makes all in the G1 Osaka Hai. (Photo by JRA)

Richards’ spend was AU$1.28 million (US$864,000) for his quintet and he sees his active participation at the high-quality auction as being an important element to establishing his stable as a strong force, allied of course to the kind of relationship-building essential to attracting and keeping Hong Kong owners. He and his partner Danielle Johnson have been busy the past several months forming those connections.

“If I don’t go and put myself out there at sales like this and try to increase the quality in my stable, then it’s going to be very hard for me to work my way up the ladder,” Richards noted.  “Danielle and myself have been going out and having plenty of lunches and plenty of dinners, and trying to meet as many people as we can. That’s been going really well and thankfully we were given really good support to come down here and try and buy some really nice horses.

“I was very fortunate when I was training at Te Akau to go around and spend a lot of time inspecting yearlings, and I believe I’ve worked hard at trying to develop my eye. Andy Williams is a good friend and a good judge, and between the two of us we’re doing our best to try and buy some nice horses for my owners.”

Richards’ average spend on his five buys was AU$256,000 (US$172,000), with a top price paid of AU$310,000 (US$209,000) for a Toronado colt from a speedy family, offered by Vinery Stud. His ability to buy within that bracket showed that the yearling sales offer Hong Kong buyers with PPG permits an opportunity to perhaps pick up some untapped quality at a price that fits.

Jamie Richards secured Lot 229 (Toronado x Minetti) for $310,000.

Jamie Richards has formed a strong association with leading jockey Zac Purton. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

“The Easter Sale is a very strong sale, the top of the market is incredibly competitive with the guys with the money to buy the colt funds and the filly pedigrees, but below that you can buy some nice colts that are going to be good racehorses, by good sires that are good types,” he said.

“We just tried to buy a bit of value in that sort of AU$200-350,000 bracket and we believe we’ve bought some nice horses. We got beaten up on some horses but I’m really pleased with what we’ve come away with and I’m very thankful to the owners that have given us the opportunity to come down here and back our judgement.”

The New Zealander’s first dip into his pocket was for Lot 19, a colt by the Darley shuttler Too Darn Hot – a star juvenile and two-time G1 winner at three in Europe – out of a High Chaparral mare, a half-sister to the late stallion Northern Meteor and the dam of Smart Missile, both of which are known to Hong Kong owners through their offspring.

“That Too Darn Hot horse, okay, he’s by a first season sire, but he was nice and early in the sale, and I love High Chaparral in the pedigree. We bought him to be a nice staying sort of horse and hopefully he might be a Hong Kong Derby sort of horse,” he said.

“We’re looking at a mixture of everything. You want to buy sires that have worked in Hong Kong but first and foremost we’re trying to buy nice athletic horses regardless of the sire, there’s obviously sires that don’t work because of the firmness of the ground, but we want athletic horses.”

Too Darn Hot wins The Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in 2018. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Lot 19 (Too Darn Hot x Alam Mo Na) was a $200,000 purchase out of the Little Avondale Stud drat.

Richards, a four-time champion trainer in New Zealand until his relocation to Hong Kong last May, is sending the new purchases to his homeland to be prepared at the family farm before they head to Hong Kong if all goes as hoped.

“They’ll all be broken in the next three months, and we’ll give them a bit of time then trial them up,” he said. “We’ll make plans depending on the owners’ permits, as to whether they come up to Hong Kong as PPGs or we need to race them first and qualify them as PPs.  It’s a pretty long winded sort of exercise when you’re buying yearlings, but as long as the owners are patient it’s all good and means we’ve got time to work all of that out.

“We’re certainly looking forward to the next two years, getting to know these horses and taking them through the system, and it’s nice to have some good quality stock that hopefully is going to ensure the stable’s success in years to come.”

The handler, still only 33, is looking at the long game and that was shown in his patient start to the campaign. He had his first Hong Kong runner one month into the season, on October 5 at Happy Valley, and his first winner came one week after that. He had to wait until November 30 for a follow-up, a double at Happy Valley, and by the turn of the year he had just seven wins on the board.

Handsome Rebel gives Jamie Richards his first Hong Kong winner on October 12, 2022. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

But the wins have come more frequently in the past couple of months and Richards says he has learnt a lot in a short time as he has adapted to the Hong Kong way.

“The horses gallop two days a week in Hong Kong and that’s usually a Monday and Thursday after the races on Sunday and Wednesday, when you’ve got your entries,” he said. “It’s a pretty routine sort of place, the horses get used to that and they thrive on a bit pf routine.

“For us, it’s just about adjusting, like in New Zealand after a horse raced you might send the horse out to the paddock, or you might put them on the water walker for a week, or get them out of the stable for ten days, then run them again in a month. In Hong Kong you don’t have the luxury of doing that; you sort of swim them for a few days, help them get over their run, build them back in towards their next race and really try and keep the horses to a routine. You sort of can’t ease up on them too much because then they get fresh and they get a bit above themselves, so you’ve got to find a happy medium with them.”

And he has observed what his peers do with their horses each day, logging what works best.  

“By the transparency of the Jockey Club website you can see what everyone is doing,” he said. “I’ve watched that very closely. And, I guess, another part we had to adjust to was how they trial them, they trial them quite hard: in New Zealand if a horse was going to race over 1200 metres you would never trial it over 1200 metres, but that’s something we’ve just had to get used to and get some decent gallops on them before they head off to the races. I feel like I’m starting to get a bit of a handle on it now.”  

As well as the Too Darn Hot and the Toronado, Richards and Williams left Inglis with a Savabeel colt from a good New Zealand family, a son of Hellbent from the family of Kermadec, and a colt by The Autumn Sun out of the G1 Galaxy winner Griante.

Richards seems to be finding his groove but the road ahead will be relentless in its difficulty; he will need young stock like his Inglis Easter buys to make it through the system and succeed in his Asian base. If they do, his stable could be on its way to emerging as a force in the upper reaches of the Hong Kong ranks. 




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