Hong Kong gains one, Singapore loses one

Date: 21 Dec 2021

Hong Kong gains one, Singapore loses one

straitstimes reports: 

Te Akau's Richards is joining HKJC, Walker is leaving Kranji to replace him in New Zealand

He may have just clinched his fourth premiership title and has the biggest team of horses at Kranji, but trainer Mark Walker is saying haere ra, the Maori farewell, to Singapore after 11 years.

The 49-year-old New Zealander is the third high-profile Kranji-based trainer, after Australians Lee Freedman and Cliff Brown, to return home from pandemic-stricken Singapore racing.

Walker has another good reason to return to his native land, where he was also champion five times.

He will be back to assist his New Zealand associate, David Ellis of the powerful Te Akau Stable, which has a number of horses at Kranji. This came after Te Akau's head trainer Jamie Richards was granted a licence by the Hong Kong Jockey Club yesterday.

Walker, who is bowing out of Singapore with 685 winners - including 13 at Group level, with the 2018 Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup with Elite Invincible as his main highlight - is looking forward to a career development he relished, given the “new world we live in these days”.

“It wasn't my plan to leave, but things have evolved so quickly with Jamie going to Hong Kong. It all came about so quickly,” he said.

“It's also a good timing for me, as I haven't seen two of my children (Zavier and Alexis) for two years. They are on the Gold Coast (Australia) and it's easier for them to travel to New Zealand with the easier regulations.

“We've all been suffering from the Covid-19 situation and it'll be great to be finally closer to family and friends.”

Walker relocated to Singapore in 2010. He is looking forward to going full circle to his former training base. But he will also have to make sure the takeover of his Kranji operations goes smoothly.

“David has a big team of horses and it'll be exciting to go back to my hometown of Matamata to take over Jamie's job,” he said.

“It'll be the same horses, as Jamie cannot take horses to Hong Kong as per the import protocols.”

Fellow Kranji-based Kiwi Donna Logan, who won this year's $1 million Kranji Mile with Minister, will take over the training of the Te Akau and Fortuna New Zealand Racing horses in Singapore.

“Both Te Akau and Fortuna are 100 per cent committed to continuing racing in Singapore. I'm now working on the new trainers for the other horses,” he said.

“I haven't set a date for my flight out of Singapore yet. But by next year, when the new season starts, I'll be at the Gold Coast buying yearlings for Te Akau.”

Walker has mixed feelings about his move.

“I would still be training in Singapore, if not for Jamie moving to Hong Kong. The Singapore Turf Club has been wonderful over the years, and I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me,” he said.

“I've won four champion trainer titles, which I'm very proud of. It's been a lot of hard work, especially with Covid-19 in the last couple of years.

“It hasn't been easy and it wouldn't have been possible without great staff that I will miss a lot, too. The Singapore Gold Cup win was definitely my highlight and Elite Invincible is by far the best horse I have trained here.

“I'll always have fond memories of my time here and the friends I have made. Singapore is a great country to live in, but family is important to me and it was good timing to go.”


The Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Andrew Harding, yesterday praised incoming Kiwi trainer Jamie Richards as “an exceptional talent”.

“He has rewritten the record books in New Zealand racing and amply demonstrated that he has the ability to train at the standard required in Hong Kong and make a significant contribution to our world-class racing,” he said.

“He has the experience and insight to source horses that will succeed in Hong Kong, the skills to achieve high performances, and an absolute commitment to owners' communication and providing owners with a high-value ownership experience.

“He has the energy, passion and ability to make a valuable addition to the ranks of trainers in Hong Kong.”

In response, Richards said: “I am grateful for the opportunity that the Licensing Committee has given me.

“Hong Kong sits at the pinnacle of racing, incredibly professional in any aspect, and now also has the fantastic facilities at Conghua.

“It is a dream of mine to take the skills I have developed in New Zealand and bring them to bear fruits in that new environment. I can't wait to get started.” - HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB


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