Karis Teetan has just completed his first season in Hong Kong. He notched 50 wins including the Gr2 Chairman’s Trophy on Able Friend, the Gr3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup and Gr3 Premier Plate on Bubble Chic, the Gr3 HK Macau Trophy on Super Lifeline and finished 4th on their jockey log. After a month visiting friends and family in Mauritius, he’s back in South Africa for a few weeks to gear up for his return to Sha Tin. I managed to catch up with the ‘Mauritian Magician’ for a quick chat.
How did you originally get the job in Hong Kong?
I always wanted to apply there, but needed to have a good season to build a good CV. I heard that Richard was coming back and I’d had a good season with Brett, so I thought it’s a good opportunity for me to send my CV now. Hong Kong is always looking for light jockeys, so I think that was also in my favour. Everything happened so quick – I was doing my CV and suddenly the job was there. It worked out very easy for me.
Was it difficult to get used to Hong Kong?
Remember, I am from Mauritius! I love travelling, so it’s not a problem for me. I thought it would be harder, but there everything is very easy. I think the club tries to make it as nice as possible for us because they know we’re leaving our family behind. They gave me a car to drive and a beautiful big apartment, so you feel really at home. They said they’d give me accommodation, but I never thought it would be so nice! My apartment is right on Sha Tin racecourse. Most of the jockeys and trainers live there – Doug Whyte, everyone. They make it very comfortable for a jockey.
Most of the jockeys arrive 2 weeks before the season starts, but I left at the end of July 2013, so I was there 3 weeks before the first meeting. Weichong Marwing came and he was so helpful and did what he could to show me around and was very very helpful. He’s like my best friend here and we did everything together. If you’re a South African jockey, it’s great to have someone from home. I’ve known Weichong for a long time and he was someone from home and someone I could talk to and have dinner with. It was nice to find someone like that.
What is Hong Kong like to live in?
It’s a good lifestyle, but it’s hard to find stuff by yourself. Once you get to know some local people, it gets a lot easier and then you really see how beautiful Hong Kong is. You go to the lovely small towns and islands. It’s really beautiful and I love it. I’m learning fast. I used to take taxis to get around, but now we’re getting better and better with directions and take our car a lot. Hong Kong is not that big, but it’s very busy, so you need to know where you’re going.
Has it been easy to get to know the trainers?
My first winner was for David Ferraris. Before I left South Africa he actually got hold of me and said he has a lot of horses that he would like to use me on as not a lot of jockeys could ride light. When I arrived, I let him know I was there and he gave me the ride on Amazing Always. It was the first race on the card of the first day of the new season. It was my first ride in Hong Kong and I won. It was a very special win and I think that caught all the owners and trainers eyes, so it was a good start.
You’ve also had a lot of success with Tony Millard
I have to say thank you to Mr Millard – he’s been very very good to me. He’s put me on most of his horses and has helped me a lot over there. He has been there a long time and gave me a lot of advice. He’s a great man to work for. I must just say thank you, I totally appreciate the support.
Tell us about Able Friend
You know, he is such a good horse. Everything about him is natural. In the morning, he’s a total gentleman. He does his work, he’s laid back, he’s lovely to work with and John (Moore) loves him.
The first time I rode him from a bad draw and he finished 3rd. It was his first run. Then I got the ride again and won on him. He’s a monster. You must see the winning picture – I look like an ant! Then Tommy Berry came to Hong Kong and after Tommy, Joao saw him and took the ride. He was winning and placing at Gr1 level and I thought I will never see that horse again. Then Joao got suspended and I saw John (Moore) at the races and he asked whether I had a ride in that Gr2. I said no and he said he might want me for Able Friend. I had just finished weighing out and wasn’t sure I’d heard him properly. I got home and rang him and said are you sure you said Able Friend? John said yes, he just had to check with the owner. And I got the ride and then I won the Gr2 on him.
What are the facilities like?
Sha Tin is a lovely track. It’s so beautiful, seriously, and it’s such a pleasure to work on. We have an all-weather track which we work on in the morning, but we also race on it. There’s a small canter ring on the inside and then there’s also a turf track that we race on. All the training is done at Sha Tin.
The other track is Happy Valley. That’s a pretty difficult track, but having ridden in Mauritius and tracks like Durbanville and Arlington really helped me. Happy Valley is very small and the turns are pretty sharp, so it helped me to have ridden on those tight tracks, but basically I think if you can ride at Kenilworth you can ride anywhere in the world.
Do you find the camaraderie different?
The Hong Kong jockey room is very different. In SA we’re still friends, I’ll have a chat to everyone, sit around, talk to people and stuff like that. When we’re walking down to the gate, we’re talking – it’s always friendly. In Hong Kong, it’s friendly outside of racing, but more serious on course. Everyone is very focussed so you won’t find people chatting in the jockey room or behind the gate. You’re just concentrating and thinking about your race.
Have you learnt a lot there?
When I go to the gate and look around me, I see the best jockeys in the world. Doug Whyte, Joao Moreira, Zac Purton – these are top jockeys, they’re superheroes. Douglas hardly ever makes a mistake. You’ve got to make sure your riding improves!
I wouldn’t want to rate myself, but when I was in South Africa I was doing well, but I was not making good decisions. In a race, it’s all about what decisions you’re making – concentrating on the pace, how fast you’re going, lots of small details. For me just to get there was a great thing, but I’ve been there a year now and I’ve learnt so much. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m just so grateful to be there.
We work with time and timing there and it has helped me a lot with my racing, because then we can start counting when the pace is too fast or too slow. And I’ve learnt other tactics from watching the other jockeys. All these small details – they will help me wherever I go. When I first got there, I watched a lot of replays and watched what they do. I love watching them ride. When you’re riding against jockeys like Joao Moreira, Doug Whyte and Zac Purton, you have to pull your socks up, you can’t be sleeping!
Riding against them you have to concentrate and be on top of your game all the time. Mentally it makes you strong, physically it makes you strong. I am enjoying myself. You go to the gate and see who you’re riding against – it gets my confidence up. When you are around those jockeys you feel so good.
Tell us about Happy Wednesdays?
Happy Wednesdays are incredible – there are so many people it’s like the July – and it’s like that every Wednesday. Whether it’s raining or cold, it doesn’t matter. If you look on the TV at the 3rd race on a Wednesday, there’s no space on the course. It’s beautiful to see so many people there.
Do the public treat you differently there?
Jockeys are quite small, so we get noticed very quickly. I get taxis all the time and most of the drivers know who I am. You can be walking down the street and people will shout your name and ask you to sign things for them. After racing at Happy Valley, you sign caps and calendars and things.
Racing is very popular there and their marketing is very good. At the last meeting before we came home, after the last race they put the gate on the track close to the grandstand, they put all the jockeys on the gate and the truck pulled the gates about 100m down the track and they gave us little toy horses to throw to the public. It’s amazing – just those little toys, it means so much to the people – they really want to be the one to catch them. It was fantastic to experience something like that.
What is the press like?
Every single morning, no matter if it’s cold, raining or storming, the press are there every morning looking at the horses, talking to everyone, trying to get information. You can’t believe it. No matter what level of race, they do everything they can to help the punter. They don’t ask for tips or whether you think your horse can win – they look how the horse is working, ask the trainer and jockey if they’re happy with the work. They get an opinion on each piece of work for every horse and everything is made public. The punter gets so much information from the club and everyone involved. As a jockey I read everything, then you also get a little bit of news on your competition! It’s fantastic team work that goes in there and it helps everyone in racing.
What are you doing at the moment?
I had a break in Mauritius with my family for a month and now I’m in South Africa till the 27th. I’ve been working the whole time to get back into racing mode. I’m starting to get fit now and it was good to start my first meeting with 2 winners at Kenilworth. I’m racing at Kenilworth on Wednesday and I’ve got a full card in PE on Friday. I race again on Saturday, then have 3 or 4 days off to chill and then I leave for Hong Kong.
Are you planning to stay in Hong Kong long-term?
I’m very happy there at the moment and last season went well for me. I’ll be putting my work in and hoping for a better season and coming back for a holiday once the season is over. At the moment, the plan is like that, but it’s racing and plans can change quickly!