By Nicholas Godfrey
Hong Kong: Big news from New Zealand, where the nation’s leading trainer Jamie Richards, the reigning champion, will move to Hong Kong to join the region’s training ranks for the 2022-23 season.
Richards, 32, will be joined by his partner – the NZ champion jockey Danielle Johnson – while four-time Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker will return home to New Zealand to take over at the powerful Te Akau Racing operation.
Richards has already saddled 50 G1 winners, having reached that landmark in the NZ 1,000 Guineas at Riccarton last month when he saddled a historic 1-2-3-4 in the Classic. He set a new single-season win record last term with 160 victories.
“Being invited to train in Hong Kong is an incredible honour and it’s a dream come true to challenge myself against some of the world’s best,” Richards said, speaking to NZ Racing News.
“I owe so much to David (Ellis, Te Akau principal), Mark (Walker) and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) – there is no doubt that without Te Akau I would not be where I am today or have this international opportunity.
“They believed in me, mentored me, and surrounded me with a truly amazing team, as well as the very best of bloodstock, enabling me to develop my skill and passion as a trainer.
“I am a proud New Zealander, and I won’t forget how New Zealand and leading Te Akau Racing has shaped me. I can’t wait to fly the Kiwi flag and be the very best ambassador possible for our industry in Hong Kong.”
A three-time NZ champion altogether, Richards gained experience with Cheveley Park in Britain and Coolmore in Ireland before setting up in his own right. He is synonymous with the nurturing of exceptional talents such as Melody Belle – the all-time NZ record holder for G1 wins with 14 – Probabeel, Te Akau Shark and Avantage.
He is set to relocate in May alongside partner Danielle Johnson. “Danielle will be coming to Hong Kong, at this stage just as my partner, and we will do it together,” Richards said. “The future is very exciting for Danielle and I and It is going to be a wonderful opportunity for ourselves to set us up hopefully for the rest of our lives.”
Te Akau’s Singapore trainer Mark Walker is set to return to the helm in New Zealand, resuming a role he had over a decade ago. A five-time NZ champ, he has won the Singapore title four times in the last six years.
According to NZ Racing News, Te Akau will continue to have a significant presence in Singapore, with fellow Kiwi Donna Logan taking over.