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Vincent Ho steels himself for Jerry Chau challenge

July 10, 2021, 4:05:11 PM

As apprentice jockey Jerry Chau continues his ambitious attempt to win the Tony Cruz Award, Hong Kong's most successful G1 jockey in 2020/21, Vincent Ho, is keen to add more luster to an already excellent season by ending the term as the leading indigenous rider.

Ho leads Chau 58-56 in the race for the Tony Cruz Award – the prize for the most victories in a season by a local rider – with a full book of 11 rides at the season's final Sha Tin fixture, while Chau has 10 as the duo's struggle enters the final two meetings.

Ho, who is well-known for his affiliation with Golden Sixty, is amazed by Chau's rapid growth in his whole tenure.

“He's (Chau) done an excellent job, and for an apprentice to reach 50-something, if not 60, is quite amazing. Congratulations to Jerry, regardless of the outcome; it's always nice to see young jockeys on the rise, and performing that well is never easy,” Ho remarked before shifting his focus to the Tony Cruz Award.

“I never look at it since it's not a champion jockey, so there's no pressure. I'm still a long way behind, but it's been a fantastic season for me.

“Of course (I want to beat Chau), therefore I'll attempt to bike as many winners as possible in the next couple of meetings.”

Ho and Alexis Badel are tied for fourth position in the jockeys' championship ladder, after Joao Moreira (152), Zac Purton (125) and Karis Teetan (77).

After finishing second to boom speedster Courier Wonder in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) on May 23, Ho will seek to enhance his position riding Douglas Whyte's Stronger in the Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1200m).

“He was really outstanding; hopefully, he has maintained his form.” He trialed well, he usually tries his hardest in the trial, and he needs a strong blow, so he's ready to go,” Ho said.

Teetan will ride Champion's Way for John Size in the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy Handicap (1600m), hopeful the horse will improve on his third-place finish in the G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on 20 June.

“I felt he ran well last time; when they eased up on the pace, he got on the bridle, and when they sprinted, he needed a little bit to get going again,” the Mauritian remarked. “To be honest, I felt he raced a good race and loved the way he responded. He was making a strong finish.

“He's a little hard to ride, and you have to get him to relax and turn off. He can finish them off and run them down better when he is shut off.

“I'm not concerned about the weight (133lb) - he'll have to handle it – but I believe he's got the quality and has ran against tougher horses previously. The horse is in terrific shape, and I believe he will race well.”

Neil Callan is optimistic that Ima Single Man will continue to thrive in the Class 3 Pingwu Spark Handicap, which he won last time around (1200m).

Ima Single Man, winner of the G2 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) at Ascot Racecourse in Perth in April 2020, stormed to victory for Callan and Tony Cruz at Sha Tin on June 26 after finishing fourth in his last appearance.

“He appears to be getting the hang of things, but he's had a bit of a patchy form,” Callan added. “He's done a few nice races and then gotten a little lost, but a couple of runs back, he didn't show much speed early and at the 300 (metres), he wasn't really going anywhere, but the final 100 (metres), he really started going - he just sprouted wings.

“So, the following time, I was just a little bit more alert to put him in a more competitive situation, and he dutifully complied. With that victory under his belt, he can begin to move ahead.

“He clearly believes he has the talent. Hopefully, he will be able to get his act together.”

With five wins in his last 17 rides, Callan is gearing up to depart Hong Kong on a high note, appreciative for the support of a number of trainers over the last decade.

“I've gotten a lot of help during the previous ten years I've been here. It's always been level on the trainers' stand. It was never just one or two. I've gotten a lot of help, and I'm grateful for it,” the Irishman added.

“Just because I'm approaching the last two meetings doesn't mean I'm going to relax.”

The Class 5 Mr Award Handicap (1200m) kicks off Sunday's 11-race schedule at 12:30pm.