Jerry Chau Chun-lok takes another small step in his blossoming young career at Sha Tin on Sunday, making his first appearance in a Group race in Hong Kong aboard Playa Del Puente in the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m).
Chau had a small taste of Group racing aboard Liberty Lover in the Lord Reims Stakes at Morphettville during his training in Adelaide and is ready to capitalise on his biggest ride yet in Hong Kong.
“It’s a good opportunity, it’s a lightweight ride so not many jockeys can make the weight and I think he’s a very good ride,” the 21-year-old said, adding that he hopes to make his own luck aboard the 2020 Derby runner-up in Sunday’s contest.
“He got the perfect barrier with gate one and he has a light weight [with 114 pounds] so it’s all in his favour. [Trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing] had a quick chat with me and he wants me to be more positive this time and gate one will help that.”
Jockey Club rules stipulate that apprentices cannot ride in set-weights contests, which most of Hong Kong’s biggest races are, and can only participate in handicap Group races once they lose their seven-pound claim, meaning Chau has been made to bide his time despite producing outstanding results this season.
He has ridden 48 winners to sit sixth in the jockeys’ premiership and has surprised even himself in a breakout campaign that leaves him only 15 winners away from the 70 required to complete his apprenticeship.
“I thought I could reach around 40 winners so I’m very happy to now have 48 winners. Big thanks to my boss, he keeps supporting me and teaching me a lot,” he said.
Chau’s mentor Douglas Whyte was one person pushing to see his charge let loose in big races earlier than he has been and the 13-time champion jockey was full of praise for Chau after he produced a masterful winning ride aboard Will Power on a sloppy Sha Tin all-weather track last weekend.
“When he lost his 10-pound claim I said it would be beneficial, which has shown to be correct. He’s had more opportunities, more rides and I think he’s improved,” Whyte said.
“He’s improved as a rider and he’s improved mentally – he’s thinking quicker. If an apprentice can be as alert and sharp as him when the gates open, then he’s got a bright future.
“He’s maintaining his weight and his work ethic is good – he’s there every day and he’s there with a smile on his face. I don’t give him many days off and he doesn’t need many days off. He needs to be there. The harder you work the luckier you get.”
Chau is certainly enjoying feeling settled in a place that can prove too much for many, reflecting on how far he has come since his hectic start to life in Hong Kong after being rushed back from Adelaide.
“When I started I rode two winners but everything was so fast, after quarantine I didn’t even
have a trial and I needed to race,” he said.
“Everything went quick last season and there was a little bit too much pressure, so I wasn’t riding consistently. This season I’ve started to feel much more confident.”