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Micky Dee returns to Happy Valley nine years after riding in one barrier trial

Almost nine years to the day since Micky Dee rode in one Happy Valley trial as a teenage apprentice on an exchange programme, the Kiwi star returns to the city circuit on Wednesday to ride in three races as a senior jockey who has won 11 Group One contests.

Dee, who added South Australia’s most prestigious race, The Goodwood (1,200m), to his rapidly expanding list of Group One honours when he steered $18 roughie Royal Merchant to sprint success on Saturday, rode Paul O’Sullivan-trained speedster Stand By You to sixth place in a Happy Valley heat on May 31, 2014.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Dee teamed up with another member of O’Sullivan’s string, Expedite, to finish third in a trial on Sha Tin’s all-weather track.

Dee cannot recall much about Hong Kong from the fortnight he spent in the city before he was a household name in Australasia, but he intends to make lifelong memories over the next two months before he and his partner, former jockey Mikaela Lawrence, return to Melbourne.

“When I was an apprentice in New Zealand, there was an apprentice swap. Originally, the Hong Kong apprentices would go to New Zealand to start their riding careers, so the Hong Kong Jockey Club wanted to do something to help the New Zealand apprentices,” Dee said.

“It was a two-week period riding trackwork. For the first week, I rode out for Paul O’Sullivan. For the second week, I rode out for Derek Cruz. I rode in one trial on the Sha Tin dirt, then in one on the Happy Valley turf. I can’t remember a hell of a lot.

“Terry Bailey contacted me last Monday, so it’s been a pretty quick turnaround,” said Dee,

highlighting the can-do attitude of the Jockey Club to swiftly bolster Hong Kong’s riding ranks following the recent departures of Vagner Borges, Silvestre de Sousa and Ruan Maia.

“My partner and I are flying on Tuesday afternoon. She’s really excited. She hasn’t travelled much so she’s looking forward to exploring a new country. Hong Kong is where any jockey in the world would like to be, so it’s a great opportunity for me. Hopefully, I can have a good time and a good experience.”

Dee’s second Hong Kong adventure begins with three rides aboard David Hayes-prepared gallopers – Starry Night in the Class Five Cornflower Handicap (1,000m), Lean Hero in the first section of the Class Four Hyacinth Handicap (1,650m) and Sight Hero in the second section of the Class Four Jasmine Handicap (1,200m) – on Happy Valley’s nine-race programme.

Hayes, whose family members for whom Dee has ridden more than 50 winners on Australian soil, thinks Lean Hero represents the Kiwi visitor’s best chance of celebrating a race victory on Wednesday night.

“Barriers are very important for a new jockey in town,” Hayes said. “But Mick’s hot. He’s ridden six Group One winners in Australia this season – only James McDonald has ridden more than him. On Saturday, he rode two Group winners in Adelaide, including The Goodwood for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace yard.”

The barrier gods treated Dee kindly for his first meeting in Hong Kong. Lean Hero jumps from gate one and Starry Night starts from gate two, although Sight Hero begins from gate 10 in his 12-runner dash.

“I’ve had a look at their past three replays,” Dee said. “David told me they should run well – maybe top-three chances – but I’m not familiar with the form yet.

“With whatever rides I have, I want to ride them to the best of my ability. Any jockey could have all the ability in the world, but if you don’t capitalise on opportunities early, well, I get the feeling you get forgotten about quite quickly in Hong Kong.”

Dee answers to multiple names – Michael, Mick and Micky – but how would he like Hongkongers to address him between now and the final meeting of his short-term stint on July 9?

“Most people call me Mick, but to be honest, I don’t mind the catchiness of Micky Dee,” the Kiwi newcomer said.

Micky Dee, it is.

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