Hong Kong is different to most places in that jockeys are not allowed agents or managers to book rides for them.
The onus is on each rider to build a network of supportive trainers and owners (there are no female riders at present) but as in most territories a small group tends to assert over time.
There are generally just over 20 full-time riders on the circuit but the top six won well over half of the 807 races run last season and that pattern is being repeated this term.
Here, we profile the five leading riders that you can follow on Sky Sports Racing and attheraces.com this season.
Now in his eleventh season in Hong Kong, Purton is king of the hill after securing a second title with an epic takedown of previous champ Joao Moreira last season. A clinical operator both on and off the track after securing his 900th winner recently, the 35-year-old Aussie is a superb judge of pace and very sure footed when it comes to ensuring that he climbs aboard the right horse on the right day. Horse of the Year Beauty Generation remains his flagship partner and Purton looks poised to secure a third title this season barring unforeseen circumstances.
The Magic Man departed for Japan after Purton seized his crown last July but is back in town for a new role as stable jockey to champion trainer John Size.
That role restricts outside rides – and the record-shredding totals he racked up winning three consecutive Hong Kong titles are on hold as a result – but Moreira is as hungry as ever and remains one of the smoothest sights atop a thoroughbred in world racing. His ability to offset a wide draw remains second to none and Size can be relied on to supply him with a steady stream of emerging talent in 2019.
The popular Mauritian, who was champion apprentice in South Africa in 2008, will look back on 2018 as the year he joined the Hong Kong elite. Always a fan favourite due to his dynamic style and positive outlook, Teetan is well on course to beat his previous best total of 50 winners and Mr Stunning’s repeat success in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint in December gave him a cherished first Hong Kong G1 win. More big-race wins look sure to follow, though the return of Moreira and the rise of another familiar Brazilian are making things increasingly competitive at the top of the table.
The three-time British champion has made a huge impression during the first half of his latest short-term contract. Money isn’t everything, especially when you have a growing young family, but the fact that de Sousa’s Hong Kong earnings in November and December exceeded what he amassed booting home 176 winners for his latest UK title is striking. He beat some superstars when landing the LONGINES International Jockeys Championship; he notched a first Hong Kong G1 on Glorious Forever in the Hong Kong Cup; and he is becoming the go-to man for some of the best stables around. In short, he could be a potential Hong Kong champion – if he’s prepared to commit for the longer term.
Experience has taught Vincent Ho to be patient but that patience is being rewarded at the age of 28. Hong Kong’s champion apprentice in 2011, he has often had to take a back seat when the big international riders are available but has honed his craft with regular trips to Europe and spent a few weeks with Mark Johnston in the summer of 2018. Another British venture is on the cards in 2019 but, in the meantime, Ho has passed the 20-mark for the season with his previous best of 39 looking a very viable target. A fitness fanatic with boxing at the top of the list, he rides for a wide variety of trainers and partners more than his share of winners at generous prices.