Martin Harley’s Hong Kong Diary: The hard graft continued this week
Harley returns with his exclusive insight
It was a day of ups and downs for me at Sha Tin on Sunday as I had a couple of really nice rides which came close to winning, but I also picked up a ban that’ll keep me sidelined this week.
I’ll start with the positives. In the opening race I claimed my best finish yet on the appropriately named Best Effort with a close third. I thought I was going to win after kicking a couple of lengths clear, but was collared in the last 100 metres.
He is trained by Caspar Fownes and he’s a very talented trainer and an intelligent guy. He’s particularly good with his horses in handicaps. It takes a clever man to do that and he’s very good to ride for. Fownes is an interesting guy and he could make things happen for me, so I’m looking forward to riding for him again, hopefully.
Later on the card I rode a lovely horse called Glorious Dragon for Tony Millard in what was essentially a trial for the Hong Kong Derby on March 17. He finished fifth and put in a really promising performance and I liked him a lot. I think he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Unfortunately, I also picked up a two-day suspension in the last race but I deserved it. I was riding on the dirt for the first time and got a bit squeezed leaving the back straight, decided to switch out and caused one of the favourites to get hampered.
It’s just one of those things but I wasn’t too busy this week anyway so I opted to take the suspension straight away and have it over and done with so I’m ready for some of the big races coming up next month.
The main man at Sha Tin was definitely Zac Purton, who rode a six timer. He’s champion jockey out here and credit where credit’s due, he was brilliant on Sunday.
He’s very good out of the gates, world class I’d say, and the moves he makes through the races without causing interference, or anything, are so good.
I ended up behind him on two of my rides and in one of the races I managed to get first run on him and he was able to get back up and win. Purton’s race-riding out here is brilliant and his confidence is sky-high and that helps so much when you’re riding.
Riding against people like Zac is one of the big reasons for me coming over here. I’ve also learned a lot about the grass tracks and feel comfortable and able to ride them very well now. It’s a case of trying to work hard and get on the right horses now to be able to make the most of the experience I’ve gained by riding them.
Breaking from the stalls and positioning is key, so while I wasn’t able to get a winner last week I don’t think I missed out for doing the wrong thing. I just wasn’t quite on the right horses this time around.
You cannot come to somewhere like this and not learn things that are going to be hugely helpful to you in the way you ride elsewhere in the world.
It’s the same for these jockeys when they come over to Ireland or England as the racing here is all on level, right-handed courses whereas back home we race right handed, left handed, up and down, back to front and it’s totally alien to them.
It’s different experiences like this that make you a better jockey and I’ll come away from here with a lot more skills than when I arrived.
As I’m not in action on the track this week it’ll be about working hard in the mornings and in the trials for races in a couple of weeks. I’m enjoying riding out here and if I can get on the right horse then I have what’s needed to make the most of it.
Thanks for reading,