Last Sunday, Italy’s former champion apprentice Alberto Sanna was at Budapest’s picturesque Kincsem Park, named for the remarkable Hungarian mare who retired unbeaten after 54 starts.
It was Hungary’s biggest raceday, headlined by the 95th Magyar Derby (2400m), and Sanna had partnered Gabor Maronka-trained Humanic into fourth in the feature behind Sandor Kovacs’ Eminens after leading into the straight.
That night, he received a phone call from Hong Kong Jockey Club Stipendiary Steward & Licensing Committee Secretary Steve Railton that would grant him an opportunity to ride at the final three meetings of the 2016/17 season.
“I was in Budapest and got the call from Mr Railton that invited me to ride in Hong Kong,” Sanna recalled. “I didn’t expect the call, I was very surprised. I had to rush back to Italy to pack all my things, and then I got out here as quickly as I could. I can’t believe I am here now, but I am very happy to be here.”
The 32-year-old Sanna was once Italy’s champion apprentice, while he was also the inaugural winner of the Ribot Cup, a jockeys series for European riders under the age of 25, in 2008. Those early successes led him to try his hand in the Middle East.
“The last four years, I have been based in Qatar, but also riding in Bahrain every week. I was champion jockey in Bahrain, runner-up in Qatar. The season normally finishes in the second week of May, so usually I will ride in Italy and in other places in Eastern Europe until the season starts again in October or November.
“I have never been to Hong Kong before. It is of course difficult to be here because the level of competition is very high, but it is one of the best places in the world for racing. Every jockey wants to come here and ride, so I hope that I get to show my skills in the last three meetings and we will see what happens.
Sanna has five rides on Sunday, including Michael Chang’s griffin Star Of Hong Kong (126lb) – the first Hong Kong-trained son of Japanese stallion Heart’s Cry – in the Chai Wan Road Plate (1200m).
“I don’t know much about the horses I will be riding,” Sanna admitted. “Everything is new, I have to get used to the track, to the different style of races, different tactics. I have to get to know trainers, they have to get to know me, same with the horses. Still, I will give my best.”
Sunday’s meeting begins with the Chai Wan Road Plate for griffins at 12.45pm and concludes with the Class 3 Lei Yue Mun Park Handicap (1400m) at 5.45pm.
Racing at Sha Tin on Sunday, picture ThoroughbredNEWS