From one of the world’s smallest racing countries to the top of the ladder, Karis Teetan crowned his six year spell in the white hot heat of competition in Hong Kong by landing last week’s international jockeys’ challenge from previous winner Ryan Moore. Originally from the tourist island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, Teetan entered the famous South African Jockey Academy at the age of 14 and graduated in 2009 with 147 winners, including an apprentice championship, to his name. After four seasons with a century of winners each time in South Africa, he spread his wings and moved to Hong Kong. The last three seasons have brought increased success, although Zac Purton and Joao Moreira, the two most successful riders in the country’s history, have barred his way to the very top.
Last week they trailed in the points based event, as Teetan made the most of a book of rides that had him installed as the favourite before the meeting. It was a tight thing, though, as victory in the four races was claimed by different jockeys, and it was only after seesawing with Moore for the lead that Teetan took the HK$500,000 prize by two points with a late run into third place in the final event. Moore, twice a winner of the event, was off to a flying start by taking the first leg on Flying Genius for trainer Tony Cruz, with Teetan third, but the Mauritian hit back immediately, teaming up with Cruz to win the second leg on Dream Warriors, with Moore out of the points in seventh. Thereafter it was a case of the pair trying to pick up as many points as possible.
Moore claimed a two point overall lead by finishing runner-up in the third leg, won by Irishman Colin Keane, but Teetan crept past to the top of the leaderboard with a strong run to be third in the fourth and deciding leg, while Moore trailed the whole field in last place. “I knew I had some decent rides but you still need the horses to perform,” Teetan said, after receiving his trophy and cheque. “I was really feeling the pressure. It’s just not a normal day up against the world’s best jockeys. I really wanted to do well and I’m glad everything went well.” Established as the strongest jockeys’ challenge held anywhere in the world since its inception in 1998, this year’s renewal was as good, if not better, than ever. However, there were a couple of downsides to the event.
Hong Kong’s well publicised political problems over the last six months led to less promotion than normal, and the attendance was down by more than 43% on last year, to a little over 17,000, although betting turnover was up 5.5%, thanks to growth in opportunities off track. Of more concern to those taking part, though, was the distribution of rides, which resulted in three Champion Jockeys, Frankie Dettori, Pierre-Charles Boudot and James McDonald, going through the evening with not a single point to their names. In addition, Moreira managed six points, thanks to one second placing, and Purton scored four, with just one third spot. Part of the problem rests with the weight range in the four handicaps, which goes down to 116lb, for which several jockeys would need to cut off at least one arm to achieve.
Plus, there is the appearance of horses who have little chance from the outset, including the seven who started at odds of 54/1 or longer on this occasion. Their riders might as well have stayed at home, and probably wished they had. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is well aware of the difficulties, and it would be no surprise if a form of seeding was not introduced next year.