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Star New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards to make Hong Kong move

The 32-year-old joins the ranks next season, while Tony Cruz has been granted an extension and Silvestre de Sousa has pulled out of his short-term stint

Star New Zealand handler Jamie Richards will join the Hong Kong training ranks next season, the Jockey Club announced on Friday.

The 32-year-old is currently the head trainer of Kiwi juggernaut Te Akau Racing and has 50 Group One wins and three New Zealand trainers’ premierships on his CV.

“I’d like to say what an honour it is to be licensed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club for the upcoming season,” Richards said.

“It’s a very rare opportunity that doesn’t come around very often and something that I’ve been particularly keen on chasing in recent times.

“The future looks very exciting in Hong Kong with the expansion of Conghua along with the racing at Happy Valley and Sha Tin and I’m really looking forward to getting up to Hong Kong and learning a bit more about the culture and really trying to make a name for myself as a trainer.”

Richards plans to travel to the city in the new year to get the ball rolling on his new career.

“A couple of years ago I made my first and only trip to Hong Kong and spent a bit of time for the international sale, went to Sha Tin and Happy Valley and had a morning at trackwork and ever since then it’s been very high on my list of things I’d like to achieve,” Richards said.

“I’m hoping to get up to Hong Kong in April or May and canvas Sha Tin and work out where we’re I’m going to be stabled and who would be in the team and all of those sorts of things. I’m certainly looking forward to the challenge.”

Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding is looking forward to welcoming Richards to Hong Kong.

“Jamie has well and truly established himself as one of the most exciting talents in world racing,” Harding said.

“He has achieved success not just in New Zealand but also in Australia and he has an energy, he has a passion and he has a commitment to providing owners with the ownership experience that they deserve and warrant.”

Harding also confirmed legendary trainer Tony Cruz will be granted an extension ahead of his 65th birthday later this month.

“Having regard to the desirability of providing owners with certainty about the availability of Tony Cruz, the licensing committee determined to bring forward the decision on his future licensing. Recognising his ongoing outstanding level of contribution to Hong Kong’s world-class racing, it’s the decision of the licensing committee to grant him a licence for the 2022-23 season and then he will remain eligible to be considered for a licence in the proceeding year over the next five-year period,” he said.

Meanwhile, Silvestre de Sousa has pulled out of his short-term Hong Kong stint because of the Covid-19 situation.

“Very disappointed I am unable to ride in Hong Kong this season. The new Covid-19 restrictions have made it very difficult to travel with family commitments,” tweeted De Sousa, who was due to arrive in Hong Kong next month.

“A very difficult decision to make as I love riding there. Hopefully I’ll get the chance soon.”

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