Grant van Niekerk scored an amazing wide-draw double at Sha Tin in Hong Kong yesterday but it was a disappointing day for South African-bred horses on the island and the current SA Champion Jockey Lyle Hewitson is still struggling to get off the mark.
The island’s jockeys championship is being dominated by Joao Moreira, Zak Purton and the former South African based Mauritian Karis Teeten. They had ridden 24, 18 and 14 winners apiece at respective strike rates of 24%, 18,5% and 14,9% before yesterday’s meeting.
Before yesterday’s meeting, Van Niekerk was in joint fourth place on the log with five winners at 9,1% and Aldo Domeyer was in 7th place on 4 winners at 10,25%.
Van Niekerk’s double puts him on seven winners for the season, but he is now in fifth place as CY Ho rode a treble yesterday to move into fourth place on his own.
South African ex-pats David Ferraris and Douglas Whyte saddled the first two winners on the card and Grant van Niekerk then made it an SA treble by riding the next.
Van Niekerk jumped from draw seven out of eight in this 1200m handicap and dropped his mount, the CS Shum-trained Seasons Bloom, out to last. He then had to roust his mount to get him back on to the bit. He improved position on the rail before the turn, but in the straight Van Niekerk managed to switch him all the way to the outside for a run. Seasons Bloom looked to be going nowhere until suddenly producing a burst which saw him getting his nose down in a blanket finish.
Among the conquered was the celebrated QE II Cup winner Pakistan Star, who was making his seasonal reappearance and needs further.
Van Niekerk later won a handicap over 1400m and in this 14 horse field he was once again drawn widest of all. He dropped his mount Emerald Spur out to second last but was able to make up some ground on the rail. He turned for home in fourth last position and switched his mount outward. He found a gap and the rangy PF Yiu-trained five-year-old Flying Spur gelding, who has plenty of substance, ran on to make it two from two this season, both times ridden by Van Niekerk.
Hewitson was fully prepared when arriving on the island but has quickly discovered how tough a school it is, especially in the realm of booking rides. Of the five rides he had yesterday, three were rank outsiders and neither of the other two were fancied.
His return after 56 rides is zero wins, one second, one third, three fourths and two fifths for stakes earnings of HK$821,165.
That equates to R1,543,792, showing that Hong Kong is not always a bed of roses for those have attained a much sort of jockey’s license.
In comparison, the leading jockey earner in SA this season, Warren Kennedy, has accumulated 6,201,700 in stakes so far.
On the other hand Teetan’s stake earnings at this early stage of the season are already HK$14,313,368, which converts to a cool R27,097,131.
Hewitson rode the six-year-old South African-bred Philanthropist gelding Singapore Sling in the Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy yesterday, but he was widely drawn and after being dropped out to last he found little in the straight and finished last. The Tony Millard-trained bay will come on for the run as it was his first outing for five months.
Later, the former Alistair Gordon-trained Dingaans and Gauteng Guineas hero Monk’s Hood had his second start in Hong after a layoff. He is now called Graceandmercy and is also trained by Millard. After his debut in Hong Kong on 28 April he was found to have a substantial amount of blood in the trachea. Since then he has had surgery to the left guttural pouch. He was drawn widest of all in a 13 horse handicap field over 1400m yesterday and Aldo Domeyer settled him closer to the back than the front and three deep. He finished ninth, beaten six-and-a-quarter lengths, but he ran on well and the winner Golden Sixty is a star in the making having won five out of six starts to date. Graceandmercy will definitely come on from the run and it is worth keeping an eye out for his next appearance, which will likely be over a mile.
By David Thiselton
Image: Seasons Bloom with Grant van Niekerk aboard at Sha Tin