Teenage riding sensation Luke Ferraris has been handed a six-month contract by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, starting in the new racing season in September.
Ferraris, 19, is the son of David Ferraris, a four-time South African champion trainer who has been plying his trade in Hong Kong since 2004. He is the grandson of Ormond Ferraris, 89, a two-time SA champion trainer who retired a couple of years ago and is now an assistant to leading Joburg conditioner Paul Peter.
A dual South African champion apprentice jockey, Luke landed his fifth Grade 1 winner at Scottsville at the weekend, aboard Ambiorix for trainer Vaughan Marshall in the Gold Medallion.
Luke won the 2021 Cape Town Met on Rainbow Bridge and partners the same horse in the Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge at Greyville this coming Saturday – and probably in the Vodacom Durban July as well.
The young man will find himself in familiar surroundings in Asia’s leading racing centre as he grew up in Hong Kong. When he declared his ambition to be a jockey father David steered him in the direction of the SA Jockey Academy at Summerveld in KwaZulu-Natal – the breeding ground of the dozens of world-class riders.
With his racing pedigree, it was little surprise when young Luke quickly blossomed into one of SA’s top jockeys, trusted by the leading trainers with their best runners. He has ridden regularly for the likes of Mike de Kock, Sean Tarry and Eric Sands.
Hong Kong is a notoriously difficult place to crack as a jockey, with form momentum a crucial factor in getting good rides, and superstition and bias always prevalent.
South Africans who have made a mark in the racing-mad city include Basil Marcus, Felix Coetzee, Jeff Lloyd, Douglas Whyte and Karis Teetan (a Mauritian trained at Summerveld).
However, those who have struggled there include Piere Strydom, Richard Fourie, Callan Murray and Lyle Hewitson – who everyone in racing knows are brilliant jockeys.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post website on Wednesday, David Ferraris said he was “over the moon” at the news of his son’s temporary licence.
Luke will arrive in Hong Kong in August with his mother Pam, who has been stuck in South Africa for six months due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“We were all just waiting for the news from the Jockey Club and now that it’s such good news, arrangements are being made,” said Ferraris, whose daughter Caroline is studying in Cape Town.
He added: “He’s done really well; he’s got a thinking head on him and he really is a big-race jockey. We call him Cool Hand Luke and he doesn’t get the name for nothing,” the veteran trainer said.
The 57-year-old told SCMP he would do everything he could to ensure Luke gets a flying start to the next phase of his career.
“I’ll be desperately trying to get a couple ready for him to win on – I probably won’t be running too many from now until the end of the season,” he joked. “I will try to give Luke a chance to win on one or two of them next season. I will never ask him to ride something of mine that clearly hasn’t got a chance and he can get something else.”
Ferraris hopes a childhood spent at Sha Tin will hold his son in good stead come the start of next season on 5 September.
“He was a little boy growing up here and he was always with me on the track,” Ferraris said. “They all know him, even the Chinese trainers know him. It all boils down to a bit of support; that’s all he needs.
“He’s grown up with [trainer Caspar Fownes’] kids and I’m hoping Caspar will give him a ride or two; and I know [fellow South African] Tony Millard will, so it’s not like he’s a complete stranger.
“I know this place is funny, but let them see how he rides – they will all want to see how he rides and I’m hoping when they see how he rides he’ll get support.”
David said it was family patriarch Ormond that had been the most prolific source of feedback and advice to Luke.
“He gets a lot of advice from his grandad, who takes a very keen interest. He speaks to him probably more often than I do with regards to races because he’s retired so he just watches Luke ride. If he thinks he can help him improve he’ll tell him and I think Luke has taken that advice really well and his riding has just improved.”