‘The money is incredible’ – top jockey ditches UK for cut throat life in Hong Kong where he can earn £25,000 per ride | marketrealtime.com


SILVESTRE DE SOUSA daren’t put his phone on silent.

For the sake of a moment’s peace and quiet, he could end up missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Former champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is raking in the cash in Hong Kong

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Former champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is raking in the cash in Hong Kong

But the former champion jockey knew what he was signing up for when he swapped the UK for Hong Kong back in August.

The Brazilian, 41, has had stints riding in the Far East in the past, but he decided to make the full time switch several months ago after losing his job as retained jock to King Power Racing.

It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s the most cut throat racing jurisdiction in the world – but for De Sousa the reward outweighs the risk.

Not only do jockeys in Hong Kong have to book their own rides, but they have to deal with ultra-competitive, super-rich and temperamental owners who don’t deal in second chances.

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On the flip side of the coin, the sums of money on offer are nothing short of life-changing. Even the lowest grade Class 5 races are worth £80,000.

It’s as full-on and fast-paced a lifestyle as a jockey can have, for all they only race twice a week.

De Sousa’s alarm will go off a little before 5am each morning in his swish apartment overlooking Happy Valley racecourse.

A quick cup of coffee later, his driver will make the mad dash through the early morning traffic to Sha Tin racecourse, where he will ride several lots of work.

Then he will spend the rest of the day working the phones and socialising with owners, trying to build relationships and secure some rides.

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It’s chalk and cheese with the racing here in every way imaginable.

De Sousa had 350 rides on the Flat in Britain this year before he jetted off to the bustling Asian island.

He earned a shade over £700,000 prize-money during that time – an average of £2,000 per ride.

After just TWO meetings of the new season in Hong Kong, and with two winners from 14 rides, he has bagged over £350,000 at a staggering £25,000 per ride.

No wonder he has no plans to return to Blighty anytime soon.

De Sousa said: “It’s great to be back in Hong Kong – it hasn’t changed much, life still goes at 100mph.

“There is nowhere else in the world like it and the racing is just as fast-paced. “I would never say never to returning to the UK, but to be honest I was ready for a new challenge and this was too good an opportunity to miss.

“I ride out every morning and even though they only have a couple of meetings a week you spend a lot of your free time making connections and meeting with people in racing. 

De Sousa lost his job as retained jockey to King Power Racing earlier this year

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De Sousa lost his job as retained jockey to King Power Racing earlier this yearCredit: PA
He was champion jockey three times between 2015 and 2018

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He was champion jockey three times between 2015 and 2018Credit: Getty Images – Getty

“Networking is a part of the job of a jockey over here, I have regular catch ups with owners and trainers, you can’t afford to be complacent.

“If you don’t answer the phone or you don’t see a text message straight away you will lose a ride, it’s as simple as that.

“You have to be on the ball in Hong Kong. It’s very competitive over here and within a couple of minutes another jockey will take your horse.

“And just because you win on a horse it doesn’t mean you’re going to keep the ride. Sometimes several jockeys can have a turn in the same season.

“You can’t afford to make mistakes, if you mess up you won’t ride the horse again. So you have to be very sharp and totally focussed.

“It can be very intense but at the same time, the prize-money and the competition are incredible. It’s an amazing place to ride.”

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Much like neighbouring Japan, racing fans in Hong Kong are borderline fanatical.

They treat jockeys like superstars and De Sousa is no stranger to being asked for an autograph while out for a bite to eat.

And the two tracks in Hong Kong are totally unique.

Happy Valley is like Chester on steroids and smack-dab in the middle of the city, while the gigantic grandstand of Sha Tin, which can hold over 100,000 punters, is closer to the suburbs.

The atmosphere on a raceday can be pretty wild and unlike anything jockeys experience on these shores – bar maybe a student night at Newcastle!

De Sousa said: “Every race meeting it’s a full house and the fans will be shouting your name and making a lot of noise. 

“It’s a completely different atmosphere. Racing is the most popular sport in Hong Kong and the people love to have a bet.

“They will cheer your name after you have a winner but if you go on a losing run they will let you hear it.”

He added: “The season is only just starting up and the new crop of four-year-olds, who are the ‘Classic’ generation out here, are starting their trials.

“With a bit of luck I will get on a nice one and I can find a horse to take me to the big days throughout the season.

“I feel good and fit and healthy and that I’m riding as well as ever. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

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