Apprentice Jerry Chau Chun-lok reunites with the horse that provided him with his first Hong Kong winner at Sha Tin on Sunday, partnering the Douglas Whyte-trained Relentless Me as the horse chases a hat-trick of wins.
And while Chau hasn’t landed a winner since his dream double on debut four weeks ago, he has placed six times from just 33 rides and his mentor can see plenty of positives.
“He’s obviously been riding well, he’s had a few ordinary draws and he’s still learning the ropes,” Whyte said.
“Riding winners at his first meeting was a blessing and it was very encouraging for him but not having a winner for a while will stand him in good stead – it gets you hungry again and he needs to realise Hong Kong’s not an easy jurisdiction at any time of the year.”
While 10-pound claimers have been known to become single-minded in their desperation to lead at all costs, Whyte says Chau’s race craft has already progressed in their short time together.
“He now understands a bit more about race patterns, how races are run, what’s required as far as position,” Whyte said.
“He’s come to understand that when the gates open you have to have a plan, and if you don’t have a plan you can end up three-wide from gate three.”
Chau will need a solid blueprint when he climbs aboard Uncle Steve for the first time, with the five-year-old drawing gate 12 in the Class Two Butterfly Handicap (1,400m).
After a slashing third over a mile and an uninspiring sixth at 1,800m, Whyte steps Uncle Steve back to a trip he won at in October.
“[Jockey] Chad [Schofield’s] opinion was that he just didn’t quite settle in the 1,800m, it was an even tempo – nothing quick about it – and he just didn’t come off the bridle for most of the journey, hence the reason he was probably a little bit one-paced in the straight,” Whyte said.
“However, I’ve freshened him up and I think bringing him back to the 1,400m where he will get a lot more speed injected into the race, he could be finishing strongly. Unfortunately he’s got a terrible gate.”
Relentless Me has drawn an equally sticky alley for the Class Three Lung Yat Handicap (1,400m), with Chau tasked with overcoming gate 13 in a wide-open race.
As well as providing Chau with his maiden Hong Kong success, Relentless Me has been a great boost for Whyte in his first season as a trainer, winning four times from eight starts after coming across from Chris So Wai-yin’s yard.
“He’s been remarkable this season, he’s certainly transformed and he’s taught me a lot with how he’s thriving on racing – whether it’s been the move to the Olympic site or just the training he’s receiving, he’s certainly thrived,” Whyte said.
“He’s got an ordinary draw to contend with but he seems as competitive as ever and he gets his chance again.”
Chau also rides More Than A Horse, Storm Warnings and Star Win for Whyte, as well as Curling Luxury for Me Tsui Yu-sak and Multimax for Peter Ho Leung.