Hong Kong Diary

We provide news on former Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Mark Richards’s Hong Kong role, reflect on Aussie rider Regan Bayliss’s double at Sha Tin on Sunday and have the latest on Hong Kong's team for Dubai World Cup.

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Richards looking for another Triumph 27 years on

The White Stag in Wan Chai is one of HK's favoured watering holes to watch the Cheltenham Festival and one of the throng who will pack in to watch the Gold Cup late on Friday night has a much closer connection than most.

Step forward former jump jockey Mark Richards, who opened his festival account when Simon Sherwood's 33-1 shot Duke of Monmouth responded to blinkers for the first time to storm home in an old-school 30-runner Triumph Hurdle in 1992.

The BBC footage voiced by Sir Peter O'Sullevan provides a perfect illustration of what big Festival races used to look like before reduced safety limits came in and avid Bournemouth FC fan Richards promptly doubled up on the same card when Tim Etherington's Repeat The Dose repeated the dose in the Cathcart Chase.

Richards is now the man in charge of sourcing unraced horses from all over the world to be sold at the HKJC's Hong Kong International Sale - which takes place on Friday - but has fond memories of the greatest day of a riding career that yielded around 400 winners and seven Grand National mounts.

Mark Richards
Mark Richards nuzzles a speedily-bred son of Kodiac who will be sold at the HKIS this Friday

And Richards also has high hopes for the 30 horses - including the first sons of Frankel and Kingman ever to go under the hammer in HK - who will be on parade in the Sha Tin paddock for what is one of the most colourful Sales in the world.

"I'm very excited about this bunch," he said.  "A trainer called me to say 'you've got half a dozen horses there that I would give my right arm to train,' so I hope that's how it turns out. I just think there's going to be great strength from lot one onwards."

Bayliss off and running with Sha Tin brace

Last Sunday could well prove a highly significant day in the career of Regan Bayliss, who broke his Hong Kong duck at a drizzly Sha Tin with a daring late swoop on the Caspar Fownes-trained Rise High and followed up by completing a double on the exciting Champion's Way.

The Aussie is HK's youngest rider at just 21 but numbers several G1's among over 350 winners on home soil and seems to have the sort of grounded approach that is a major asset to any rider.

"For some reason I wasn't nervous at all," he said. "I feel as if I've been putting my horses in the right place and the rest is out of my control. Rise High was the first ride I've had that I thought was a really live chance. I can't say I was ever confident he'd get there but it was a great feeling to get the bob."

One of the other trainers to give Bayliss a chance was John Size and the champion trainer was in jovial form after the exciting Champion's Way made it three recorded a commanding success on his Sha Tin debut.

"Im not sure about having my picture taken with jockeys that young - as it makes me look old - but a horse like this will put something in your step," he joked.

Size's summary looks more than justified. Champion's Way is now unbeaten in three and the way he stormed clear of the promising Solar Wai Wai suggests that he will still prove ahead of the game despite a 10lb rise to a mark of 80.

Thinker adds his name to HK's Dubai list

Hong Kong's team for Dubai World Cup night at Meydan on Saturday March 30th is gradually taking shape.

Hopes that master miler Beauty Generation might make the trip have come to nothing, but Southern Legend is on course to make the trip for a probable clash with star Japanese filly Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf over 1800m.

Richard Gibson is aiming former Royal Ascot winner Gold Mount for the Dubai Gold Cup over 3200m and Hong Kong's sole English handler has the option of tackling Godolphin's star sprinter Blue Point now that Wishful Thinker has been handed an invitation for the Al Quoz Sprint.

The five-year-old scored in fluent style under Silvestre de Sousa at Sha Tin on Sunday, gradually mastering front-running Gunnison in a slowly- run race. De Sousa wasn't moving with his usual fluency on dismounting after recent back issues but Gibson praised him for a "cool and collected ride" as he considered options.

"The horse showed a lot of class," he said. "I'm just pleased to have an improving sprinter and we haven't got to the bottom of him yet."

Hong Kong Diary
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