By Hans Ebert

It was a message on Facebook no doubt meant innocently enough and in the heat of the excitement of it all- how he would be rivalling Zac and Joao.

“He” was Jerry Chau, the ten pound claiming apprentice rider who passed his baptism of fire to Hong Kong racing with flying colours. From the four rides on his first big day out riding here- at Shatin and on Saturday afternoon- the young rider brought home two winners plus having his other two rides come third and fourth, respectively.

His winners came from two good rides- Relentless Me and, especially on the John Moore trained Buddies, where he used some strategic thinking instead of using his ten pound allowance to play Catch Me If You Can. It was a ride that showed restraint and maturity.

His win aboard Relentless Me, trained by Douglas Whyte to whom he’s indentured was fairytale Sorcerer and Apprentice stuff with Jerry Chau no doubt riding to instructions by following the pacemakers and, despite dropping his whip, maintaining his cool and urging his mount home with his hands.

It was good to see as there’s a huge difference from riding in Hong Kong and doing his apprenticeship in South Australia and tracks in Adelaide.

What’s important now is to let this kid find his feet and gain the experience needed to ride through trial and error- and consistently well-against, not only The Zac Attack and the Brazilian Magic Man, but also Karis Teetan, Chad Schofield, Vincent Ho, Derek Leung, Antoine Hamelin and other local riders like Alfred Chan, Matthew Poon, Victor Wong and Dylan Mo.

Hype is a dangerous thing and it has different ways of affecting different individuals. Hype also travels fast and can cause great expectations from trainers, and especially owners, all of which can lead to unnecessary pressure.

Any of us in the racing game for some time have seen the cause and effect of hype. Just look at everything that was expected of the galloper Pakistan Star after being labelled a “viral sensation” after his first win in Hong Kong.

The fascinatingly interesting horse with a mind of his own went through a conga line of riders, but only did whatever he was in the mood to do. Most of the time he just wasn’t in the mood to race. To run around and take in the scenery, perhaps. But to actually get out there and be cajoled into try and win a race? It wasn’t for him. Eventually, his owners got the message and reluctantly agreed to retire him. Pakistan Star is somewhere today enjoying the rest of his life.

As for the success of Jerry Chau on his first day in school in Hong Kong, it wasn’t that different to the immediate success of apprentice Alvin Ng and another ten pound claimer who arrived in Hong Kong with much expected of him- Matthew Chadwick.

Whereas Chau, a quick replacement for apprentice Gary Lo who was sacked before even riding in Hong Kong, and with some wondering if he was ready at this particular learning curve in his career to ride with internationally acclaimed big boys, Matthew Chadwick returned home as a star apprentice.

Indentured to the powerful Tony Cruz stable, his ten pound claim was well utilised and the winners flowed effortlessly. Even when these ten pounds became seven, then five and then three, Chadwick showed no signs of slowing down. His exploits with the great California Memory made headlines. Everything was looking good until injuries and other twists and turns slowed things down.

Ironically, it was his short-lived partnership with the enigmatic Pakistan Star that looked like having him return to the spotlight. This was not to be.

Whereas Pakistan Star went through a game of musical chairs, his original rider- Matthew Chadwick- had to prove himself all over again and is today having one of his more successful seasons. It’s not great one, but, for a senior rider, it could be worse.

For Jerry Chau, having Douglas Whyte in his corner after originally looking like being the apprentice for trainer Ricky Yiu, he has someone who knows all about discipline, focus and realising that nothing comes easy.

He’s a tough taskmaster and Chau’s success or failure will reflect on the Douglas Whyte brand. It’s like that old advertising slogan for Vidal Sassoon: If you don’t look good, I don’t look good.

Not to forget is that also guiding Jerry Chau is the legendary former South African rider Felix Coetzee. Being a mentor, specifically for Hong Kong’s apprentices, and always there to offer local jockeys who might need help and advice, the combination of Douglas Whyte and Felix Coetzee- best friends for decades- is a double whammy for Jerry Chau.

It’s now all about checks and balances and being grounded- and for this young apprentice to keep aiming for the stars with both feet on the ground.

More winners will come and it won’t be long before he graduates and is allowed to ride at the idiosyncratic Happy Valley track. Jerry Chau and his ten pound claim will be in great demand by every stable and every trainer who will be pressured by owners to use this kid who has hit the ground running.

Success breeds success and this has to happen. It’s life. How this success is handled- and everyone is different- is what will separate the men from the boys and, as we say in music, differentiate hip from hype.

Jerry Chau shows all the signs of being able to graduate to the international arena that is Hong Kong racing.

The double at Shatin on Saturday was a good preview of things to come. The full movie will be seen in episodes over the next few months and years and will be worth following.

#JerryChau #HKracing #DouglasWhyte #FelixCoetzee #MatthewChadwick #PakistanStar