The Hong Kong Jockey Club licencing committee are expected to make an announcement shortly on the make-up of their jockey and trainer population for next season.
With betting turnovers under pressure and some punters probably bored of the dominance of kingpins like Zac Purton, the announcement is awaited with interest.
The South China Morning Post reports that new names that have been floated include South Africans Lyle Hewitson and Muzi Yeni – with local media reporting that both have put in applications to ride in Hong Kong in 2019-20.
Those currently on short-term licences – Regan Bayliss, Martin Harley and Aldo Domeyer – probably face uphill battles, but the door is not slammed shut. It depends who is coming in.
Last year’s announcement ended the Hong Kong careers of veterans Brett Prebble and Olivier Doleuze, while also confirming the bombshell that Joao Moreira was trying his luck in Japan and Tommy Berry was going back to Australia. It is a big deal.
There is no doubt the Jockey Club would love to add a Bowman and/or McDonald to the roster, but we can already rule out the latter.
“Not yet, I’ve only been back riding for a year so I’m just taking it as it comes. Maybe one day,” McDonald told the Post after Champions Day.
Bowman’s situation is interesting – there have been whispers.
He is very popular in Hong Kong, having had a long association with Werther while winning two legs of this season’s four-year-old series with Furore. Trainers hold him in high regard.
With the mighty mare Winx enjoying life after racing, perhaps now is the time to have a crack full-time.
Bowman, who is currently taking a break from the saddle, has had one short-term stint before, in 2014, but he has been a regular visitor for hit-and-run missions since.
He knows exactly what it entails and it might be a nice change of pace racing just twice a week compared to the grind of Australia. It wouldn’t be a shock either way.
As it stands, Zac Purton, Karis Teetan, Chad Schofield, Grant van Niekerk and Umberto Rispoli should all be back.
Moreira is currently riding on a stable-retained licence for John Size after failing to secure a full-time spot in Japan, but it appears a fait accompli he will receive a Jockey Club licence for next season.
Fellow Brazilian Silvestre de Sousa was a revelation in his five-month stay this season and it is expected he will be back for another stint.
The Jockey Club would be delighted if it was on a full-time basis, but that is dependent on outside factors, including his commitments in the UK.
Frenchman Alexis Badel is also very popular and should secure another short-term appointment. Those announcements might come this week or later this year.
There is always the chance of a left-field appointment too – perhaps the next Brazilian prodigy.
There will be some nervous nights for a few riders already at Sha Tin.
Neil Callan hasn’t had the season he would have wanted in terms of winners, but the equity he has built up should see him secure another contract.
Alberto Sanna has had a wretched run with injury – more bad luck than anything else – but his position is up in the air. Hopefully for him, he gets another chance.
In terms of local jockeys, it is hard to see Alvin Ng Ka-chun being allowed to go around again after he was put on notice at the end of last term. He has had an injury-interrupted season but has only managed three thirds from 89 rides.
Alex Lai Hoi-wing has not ridden since suffering a fractured wrist and a head injury in a September 2017 fall, so there would have to be some doubt over his future as well. The rest should all be fine.
In regards to training licences, Douglas Whyte, who was announced in February, will be the only new handler at the start of next season.
The season finale is scheduled for Sunday, 14 July, 2019.
The season re-opens in September.
- Thanks to South China Morning Post