Callan Murray had his first taste of Hong Kong racing on Sunday with five rides at Sha Tin. This morning, Tuesday, 23 May, the young South African ace spoke to gathered media during a press conference at the same venue to formally kick-off his short term contract with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which will take him through to the season’s final fixture on 16 July.
“It’s an honour to be here. To be invited to ride in one of the biggest racing jurisdictions in the world is very exciting,” Murray said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to come here and compete with some of the world’s best jockeys.”
“It’s a huge step coming to such an important place,” South Africa’s 2015/16 champion apprentice continued. “I got straight into the racing on Sunday at Sha Tin and it was a fantastic experience, I really enjoyed the track, it’s quite different to what I’m used to at home but I learnt a lot from it, it’s a different style of racing to back home.”
The rising star, 20, last year had a successful six-week spell riding for former Hong Kong trainer David Hayes in Australia. He has since made a big splash at the elite level.
Murray’s breakthrough G1 win came on 1 April in the SA Classic, atop the Mike de Kock-trained Heavenly Blue, and he took his top-flight tally to four when sealing a G1 hat-trick in a single afternoon on 6 May: a double for de Kock thanks to Mustaaqeem (SA Nursery) and Rafeef (Computaform Sprint), and a trio-wrapping score on the Geoff Woodruff-trained Deo Juvente (Premier’s Champions Challenge).
“Everything’s moved along very quickly since January,” he said, recalling his G1 three-timer. “I would have been over the moon with just one Group 1 win on the day. I just took it step by step and the first one won, which was expected, and that got the butterflies out. Everything just seemed to happen really well, the horses tried their hardest, and it was something quite unbelievable. You don’t expect it to happen but it was an amazing day and it certainly boosted my career and has enabled me to be here now.”
The list of South African jockeys that have made a splash in Hong Kong is an esteemed one, featuring Hong Kong’s 13-time champion Douglas Whyte, as well as Felix Coetzee, the man forever associated with the great Silent Witness and now a key cog in the HKJC apprentice programme; the Marcus brothers, too, seven-time champion Basil and Anton. Murray has called upon a couple of those wise and experienced heads for advice.
“Before I came to Hong Kong I consulted with Felix, just because it’s hard for me to make a big decision like this, to come over here. He helped me and guided me through the process, which was very helpful. I also spoke to Anton Marcus, who has ridden here before, and he gave me good insights too,” Murray said.
“Since I’ve been here, Karis Teetan has been really kind and helped me out, he’s been a friend since before I came here; his brother was in the same year as me in my apprenticeship, so he’s been explaining how things work here.
“I’ve had heaps of advice from people, I know it’s one of the most difficult racing circuits to get into and I’m just going to put my head down and work hard to make the best of it,” he continued.
“I’m going to take it step by step. I’m going to try and learn a lot from it, I think it’s a good opportunity to take everything in and learn about racing here. I want to do well, as a competitive rider you always want to be competitive and do your best.”
Murray has already notched 234 career wins and is able to ride at 117lb.
Andrew Harding, HKJC’s Executive Director, Racing Authority, said: “Over the last five or six years, the Club has been successful in identifying a number of young and exciting talents that we considered suitable for Hong Kong, including most recently Chad Schofield and Sam Clipperton, and I would certainly put Callan Murray into that class. He truly is an exciting talent.
“Callan has already, at a young age, exhibited that drive to learn, that drive to get experience and improve as a rider. In the last 12 months, he has spent six weeks with David Hayes in Australia where he enjoyed success; he went there having scaled the heights as champion apprentice in South Africa, and, more recently, he has achieved an outstanding Group 1 three-timer in one day. We are very pleased to have him riding here until the end of the season.”
Photo 1, 2, 3
Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing Authority of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (photo 1, left), and Club Jockey Callan Murray (right) meet media representatives in a press session at Sha Tin Racecourse this morning.
Photo 4, 5
Callan Murray takes media questions during the session with the local media contingent.