HKJC unveils Jamie Richards as new addition to training ranks

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is pleased to announce that Jamie Richards will be joining the training ranks in Hong Kong for the start of the 2022/23 racing season.

“Firstly, I’d just like to say what an honour it is to be licensed by the Licensing Committee for the upcoming season, it’s a very rare opportunity that doesn’t come around very often and something that I have been particularly keen on chasing in recent times,” Richards said via Zoom interview this morning (Friday, 17 December) at a media conference at Happy Valley Racecourse.

Currently head trainer of Te Akau Racing, Richards has already torn down the record books in New Zealand, setting a new all-time wins record for a single season (160), a new all-time record for domestic Group/Listed Stakes wins in a single season (36), a new all-time tally for Group 1s through a single season, the most prize money earned and the fastest 100 wins for a single New Zealand racing season.

“I think Asia and in particular Hong Kong is a very important part of world racing as was showcased last week with the Hong Kong International Races, it’s some of the most competitive racing in the world with some of the best bred animals and some of the best trainers and jockeys,” Richards outlined.

The 32-year-old boasts three training championships in New Zealand while at the helm of Te Akau Racing, twice reaching the top with 101 wins before achieving an astonishing 160 through the 2020/21 season, which also encompassed his record 36 wins at Group or Listed Stakes level.

Richards is synonymous with the nurturing of exceptional talents such as Melody Belle, Probabeel, Te Akau Shark, Xtravagant, Gingernuts and Avantage. He guided Melody Belle to a record-breaking 14 Group 1 wins – the most by a New Zealand-trained galloper; she also remains the only horse in history to claim the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown.

Not least, she also claimed successive New Zealand Champion Racehorse of the Year titles (2018/19 & 2019/20) under Richards, as well as a top-level score across the Tasman Sea in Australia, winning the G1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington Racecourse.

“It’s a challenge that we’re really looking forward to, it’s a difficult decision to leave New Zealand and as well we’ve enjoyed so much success in Australia – that was going to be a viable option as well – but I’m really looking forward to the challenge of training in Hong Kong,” Richards said.

Probabeel, Richards’ other leading flagbearer, is the only horse to win both age-restricted features at the Karaka Million meeting; she is also a four-time Group 1 winner in Australia.

Having achieved a remarkable 50 Group 1 winners across his career, Richards landed the half-century milestone when he trained the first four across the line in the 2021 G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) last month, led by The Perfect Pink.

In recent times, he has trained five successive winners of the NZ$1 million (approx. HK$5.29 million) 2YO Karaka Million (1200m), with Melody Belle (2017), Avantage (2018), Probabeel (2019), Cool Aza Beel (2020) and On The Bubbles (2021).

“My father was a jockey and that’s how I got involved in racing, he also broke in and trained horses and my upbringing was very much focused around riding horses and training horses and being involved in the family business,” Richards said.

“I was quite keen to become a jockey but I got too heavy and my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to stay in school, go off to university and get an education, so in my summer holidays while I was at university I did a bit of travelling.

“I worked on the North Island of New Zealand and in Melbourne, I completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the Otago University in Management and Accounting, I also got a diploma in marketing.

“One of the biggest things in my career was being awarded the Sunline Scholarship, which is a wonderful scholarship operated by the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association which involved three ten week stints abroad.”

The scholarship harnessed Richards’ love for racing and through it he gained global experience in Great Britain, Ireland and the United States, firstly at Cheveley Park in Newmarket, followed by Coolmore Stud in Ireland before finishing off his trip with yearling preparation at Taylor Made in Lexington, Kentucky.

Upon return to New Zealand, Richards worked for New Zealand Bloodstock before joining the team at Waikato Stud and from there he ventured to Te Akau Racing in 2014, firstly as their racing manager.

“I was very well versed in the racing side of things, but didn’t have a lot of knowledge about yearlings or broodmares and stallions, so that was a great learning curve and a fantastic opportunity to work with some of the biggest and most powerful farms in the world,” Richards said.

“I met a lot of great people and made some great contacts and I think that was a really important part of my development, then when I returned back to New Zealand I spent a bit of time at Waikato Stud with Mark Chittick and New Zealand Bloodstock with Sir Peter Vella, just to get a bit of an overview of the breeding and how a sales company work, which all in all gave me a pretty good all-round feel for the industry.

“At that stage I was approach to go and work for David Ellis as his racing manager which I did for a couple of seasons before being appointed his junior trainer and then I was in a training partnership with Steven Autridge (at Te Akau Racing).

“And, now I’ve been training in my own right for the last four seasons and thankfully everything has gone really well, we’ve enjoyed a lot of success and I think we built up a wonderful team of staff and owners, so in a nutshell I think that’s how I’ve ended up here today.”

Richards is currently positioned second with 39 wins (as of 17 December) in the 2021/22 New Zealand trainers’ championship, though he has the most prize money earned (NZ$2.089 million, approx. HK$11.054 million) and is the only handler with over NZ$1 million (approx. HK$5.29 million) banked.

“I came up to Hong Kong a couple of years ago, I made my first and only trip to Hong Kong with New Zealand Bloodstock and I spent a bit of time with the International Sale, we went to Sha Tin and went to Happy Valley as well as a morning at trackwork and ever since then it’s been very high on my list of things that I would like to achieve in my life, to train in Hong Kong,” Richards said.

Te Akau Racing is based on the North Island of New Zealand, east of Hamilton in Matamata.

“Now, thankfully, I have been granted that opportunity by the licensing committee and the Hong Kong Jockey Club who I can’t thank enough for the opportunity,” Richards said.

Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, said: “The Club commits substantial resources to local talent development and over the last two years we have been even more systematic and committed even more resources to identifying and developing local talent. At the same time, particularly over the last six months, we’ve embarked on a global exercise of identifying trainers from overseas that have the potential to join the ranks here in Hong Kong and to make a contribution to our world-class racing.

“Jamie Richards has well and truly established himself as one of the most exciting talents in world racing. He has already amassed 50 Group 1 wins, three New Zealand trainers’ championships and he’s currently neck and neck for this season’s trainers’ championship. He’s achieved success not only in New Zealand but also Australia at the highest level. He has an energy, he has passion and he has a commitment to providing owners with the ownership experience that they deserve. The licensing committee has made the decision that Jamie Richards has all of the qualities necessary for him to make a very significant contribution to Hong Kong racing.”

About RS NewsWire

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