He was already considered one of the best apprentices in recent decades and Jerry Chau Chun-lok officially stamped it into the record books at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, landing his 70th Hong Kong winner to graduate to the senior riding ranks.
Chau’s victory aboard the Tony Cruz-trained Transcendent in the Class Three Gloucester Handicap (1,200m) came at his 639th ride, with the 21-year-old slotting in ahead of Matthew Poon Ming-fai (648 rides) and behind only Matthew Chadwick (472) as the second-quickest jockey in the modern era to complete his apprenticeship.
“Amazing. I’m very, very excited. My parents have been coming to every meeting waiting for me to get to 70 winners and it happened now,” Chau said.
“I’ve been very lucky to have the support of so many trainers and my boss [Douglas Whyte] gives me every opportunity. He has helped me improve very, very quick. It’s amazing for this to happen.”
Rushed back from South Australia after the sudden sacking of Gary Lo King-yeung in May last year, Chau showed maturity beyond his years from the outset and his graduation comes almost 17 months to the day since he snared a double on his first day in the saddle in Hong Kong.
Whyte backed Chau, who endured eight placings between his 69th and 70th winners, to continue his rapid ascension.
“It’s been a long time coming, he’s been unlucky on a few, but he’s been riding well and he deserves it,” Whyte said.
“I think now he’s going to get more opportunity at three pounds, it’s going to open up a bigger margin for him and a lot more opportunities.”
Joao Moreira was the stand-out jockey on Wednesday night’s card, snaring a treble thanks to victories aboard Savvy Kingman, A Smile Like Yours and Telecom Fighters, the latter who was dominant in the Class Two Fleming Handicap (1,650m).
Jimmy Ting Koon-ho took the training honours and his double provided some welcome success for Keith Yeung Ming-lun and Chad Schofield, with the former hitting the board for the first time in 2021-22.
Schofield’s victory aboard $4.15 favourite On Excel Star in the Class Five O’Brien Handicap (1,650m) was just his second for the season and his first in nearly a month after a momentum-sapping suspension.
Dropping in grade for his first start for Ting after coming across from Dennis Yip Chor-hong, On Excel Star assumed the lead from gate four and coasted home after being allowed to set a pedestrian pace that was over a second outside standard for the first half of the race.
“Class Five and this rating is too low for him. Even though he is not in very good form, he had the rating and the race had a slow pace, which helped him a lot,” Ting said.
Yeung piloted Shadow Breaker to victory in polar opposite fashion, snagging the five-year-old back to last from gate 12 and benefiting from a breakneck early speed to surge over the top of his rivals in the Class Four Lockhart Handicap (1,650m).
“I’m very happy that Keith was able to help me have a winner. I thought it was impossible. I didn’t think he could win having drawn 12, it is very difficult,” Ting said. “He was very lucky because the pace was too fast, that’s why he could come from behind.”
It was a tough night for Karis Teetan, who hit the Happy Valley turf when Tony Millard’s Yoo Yoo King broke down in the dying stages of the Class Three Harbour Handicap (1,800m).
The Mauritian was taken to hospital after the fall, continuing a run of recent mishaps after he was thrown off Island Shine at the 2020-21 season finale and Heza Beauty only 10 days ago.
The Jockey Club confirmed Teetan suffered “mainly right shoulder complaints with X-ray revealing no fracture or abnormalities” and that he would remain in Queen Mary Hospital overnight for observation.
Adding insult to injury for Teetan was the victory of the David Hayes-trained Sight Hero, who took out the Class Four Johnston Handicap (1,200m) after Harry Bentley replaced him in the saddle.