Classic-winning rider Martin Harley is looking forward to what he calls “my biggest challenge” after being introduced as the latest recruit to the Hong Kong’s jockeys’ room at Sha Tin (Friday) morning, 8 February.
The Irishman, 29, had the first ride of a three-month contract in front of a huge crowd at the Chinese New Year fixture at Sha Tin on Thursday (7 February) and is looking forward to getting into full stride.
“For sure, coming to Hong Kong is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far. I’ve waited so long and maybe three years ago I wasn’t ready for it but now I feel I’m definitely up to it,” he said.
Harley learned his trade under the watchful eye of legendary Irish trainer Jim Bolger before moving to England to become champion apprentice in 2011 while riding mainly for the Mick Channon stable.
Classic success followed swiftly when he partnered the Channon-trained Samitar to land the G1 Irish 1,000 Guineas the following year. Harley starts his Hong Kong adventure with almost 700 wins to his credit, while further G1 successes include the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot aboard Goldream in 2015.
His latest G1 victory came on the same sprinter in that same year’s Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp and he is confident that the time is right for him to test himself against some of the best riders in the world.
“Hearing that the Hong Kong Jockey Club wanted me was the best Christmas present I could have had. I’m thankful they have kept me in mind so now I have to work hard to pay them back and make them proud of me.”
Harley, who weighs 121lb but feels he may ride slightly lighter in Hong Kong’s warmer climate, has walked the Sha Tin track with Silvestre de Sousa and has also consulted Ryan Moore about how best to succeed in Hong Kong.
“Ryan was very helpful,” he revealed. “He said it’s not an easy place and you’re not going to rock up and ride two or three winners on your first day but he stressed that it’s a great opportunity and to work hard and grab it with both hands.”
“Everyone wants to do as well as they can as early as they can but when you try to make something happen very quickly it never does,” the jockey said.
“Obviously, I’m going to try for that first winner as quick as I can but I’ve had loads of experience and I know it may take time. All I would say is that I’ve done my homework and I’m ready to do my best. I hope this isn’t just a short term thing.
“I’d like to thank everyone at the Hong Kong Jockey Club for having faith in me – now it’s up to me to do the rest.”
The Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, Mr. Andrew Harding, welcomed Harley and said that he “has the CV a jockey needs to ride in Hong Kong.”
Mr. Harding continued: “We like to bring in new talent and we are very excited that Martin has agreed to join us for three months. He’s a natural horseman – he first got on a pony aged five and was racing them at seven – before going on to become champion apprentice in the UK.
“He has five Group 1 wins and we look forward to the coming months to see what he brings to Hong Kong racing.”
– News from Hong Long Jockey Club