Australian jockeys on show against the best at Hong Kong International Races day

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The jockeys’ room at Sha Tin on Sunday may quite easily be mistaken for Randwick or Flemington as no less than nine Australian riders saddle up on Hong Kong International Races day.

There may be only a trio of horses – Preferment, Lucia Valentina and Criterion – flying the flag for Australia, but its jockeys are in demand with their reputations of being among the best in the world.

There is no disputing the king of Hong Kong is Brazilian Joao Moreira, who makes frequent trips to Australia for group 1s, but leading the chasers are Zac Purton and Brett Prebble, who sit second and third on the jockeys premiership.

“It is good to see the boys again,” Purton said. “We see quite a bit of each other these days because we are travelling more as jockeys but you notice there more Aussie boys around.

“There are four of us up here at the moment [on contract] and, out of nine of 10 western jockeys, it is a good number to have and shows how well thought of we are.

“Hong Kong racing in general is very similar to Australia, so it is easy for someone coming from home to fit in and adapt here. Whereas it can be tougher for the European jockeys because it is a completely different style for them.

“It is tough but I think most of the Aussies do well here because it is so tough and competitive at home.”

Chad Schofield and Nash Rawiller also have riding contracts in the former colony. Rawiller will ride Contentment, which is a rough hope of upsetting favourite Able Friend in the Hong Kong Mile, and a handful of jockeys have flown in for the International meeting.

“It’s a credit to our jockeys in Australia to have so many up here for this day,” said Tommy Berry, who has ridden with success in Hong Kong and is completing a contract in Japan. “People in Hong Kong are starting to see it and bring us here for more short-term contracts.

“There are more opportunities for all of us to ride internationally and I think it is because we really have a high level of competition at home.”

Berry has rides in each of the international races, three for John Moore, but he admits they are outsiders.

Hugh Bowman, who has also been in Japan for the past month, takes the ride on Preferment and has been picked up for several rides on the card, while Craig Williams reunites with Criterion, on which he won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes earlier in the year, in the Hong Kong Cup.

“He feels great and can measure up to this class again as he has shown in the past,” Williams said. “We went close last year [when third] but we need the breaks to go our way [from barrier 13].”

Damien Oliver has the seat on Lucia Valentina in the Hong Kong Cup and James McDonald has the ride on Japanese Cup contender Satono Aladdin.

If an Australian horse can’t lift one of the main prizes, the attention will turn to the jockeys and Purton believes he may be able to go one better than last year on Military Attack in the Cup after running second on him, beaten by a short head.

“He just got touch off in this race last year,” Purton said. “He always turns up on the big days and has been a fantastic horse over a couple of seasons.

“Although we won last time, I thought it was a bit of below par performance from what he can give. Caspar [Fownes] has targeted this race with him and I think he will lift.”

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