Yesterday at Shatin, Matthew Chadwick, 24 next month, grew up in front of over 22,000 people on Members Day and gave Hong Kong racing the face of its future which, until then, had been sketchy at best.
Those who noticed Chadwick as a very talented apprentice when riding in places like Beaudesert, Coffs Harbour and Lismore, where, on a five-race card, the then-17-year-old rode four winners- an exceptional feat- always expected great things from the young Hong Kong-born rider.
On his return to Hong Kong and indentured to the stable of former champion jockey Tony Cruz, Matthew Chadwick quickly lived up to the hype.
With his ten pound apprentice allowance, he was in huge demand-and he delivered- time and time again- with that important allowance kept being reduced until he became a senior jockey in just over a year- the fastest time it took a Hong Kong apprentice to graduate.
Talent is talent and Matthew Chadwick showed that he has what it takes to compete against the best riding in Hong Kong, then and now- Whyte, Purton, Prebble, Mosse, Guyon, Doleuze, Moreira, Berry, Bowman and Angland.
With California Memory, he’s tasted the ups and downs and highs and lows of racing- and all credit to Tony Cruz who supported his stable jockey and, no doubt, saw something of himself in Chadwick.
Success and fame came early for Cruz, which he took in stride and proved in front of thousands in Hong Kong and also the UK and Europe.
The question always was whether Matty Chadwick had this same discipline- this same combination of natural talent mixed with determination and that all-important emotional toughness.
Whereas Tony Cruz had a strong family unit around him led by his dad- amateur jockey Johnny Cruz- Matthew Chadwick, born to extremely poor Chinese parents, and the adopted son of British school teachers, Jennifer and Chris Chadwick, has, rightly or wrongly, come across as a loner.
Over the last few years, he has often appeared moody and has had to endure suspensions, injuries and throw in a few bouts of bizarre behaviour. He seemed an angry young man.
Through it all, Tony Cruz has been unswerving in his support and defense and mentoring of his “problem child.”
A month ago, we were there when the jockey had a bad fall off his horse- a sickening fall right in front of us and which made us wonder if he’d ever come back from it- emotionally intact.
Still, he returned to riding a few weeks ago and, watching some of his performances, we wondered if he might have lost his confidence. And if he had lost that will to take chances and ride to win.
He hasn’t- far from it.
During these days where all the headlines have been shared by Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte, on Sunday, Matthew Chadwick almost did the impossible: He stole their thunder from right under their noses by riding four winners- three unexpected winners including a brilliant front-running ride in the last race of the day aboard 50 to 1 outsider Helene Super Star and where he outfoxed some of the best jockeys in the world.
Watching the way he controlled the race, shook the reins and didn’t resort to the whip, but only his upper body strength, Matty Chadwick reminded us of the great Felix Coetzee.
We don’t pay compliments like that flippantly.
Coetzee and Cruz were Hong Kong’s greatest C Team in an A Grade Group 1 world known best for their successes with the great Silent Witness.
At Shatin yesterday, we saw the new C Team- Matthew Chadwick and Tony Cruz. And while the racing world of Australia has young guns like Tommy Berry, James McDonald, Katelyn Mallyon, Jye McNeil, Josh Cartwright, Brendon Avdulla, Tye Angland and others and Europe has precocious young riding talent in Mikhael Barzalona, Maxime Guyon and Umberto Rispoli, not since Tony Cruz has Hong Kong had a home-grown racing idol.
Yesterday, Matthew Chadwick changed that. He gave Hong Kong racing fans a new Hong Kong success story to cheer on.
With his first winner of the day being for Caspar Fownes in race one- the 20 to 1 Victory General- the other three were for Tony Cruz- Chancellor, favorite Peniaphobia when he out-rode an equally determined Joao Moreira, and, finally, running away with Helene Super Star.
Since starting his riding career in Hong Kong in 2008, Matthew Chadwick has been a revelation, a hugely talented rider with the world at his feet and, at times, exasperating with almost a destructive streak and a mighty big chip on his shoulder- the Robert Downey Jr of racing.
Yesterday, the “good Matthew Chadwick” showed up. And watching his joy at winning his fourth winner of the day, Helene wasn’t the only Super Star going past that winning post and giving wind burn to others in that race.
Matthew Chadwick separated the men from the boys- and in so doing, the Hong Kong boy looked the world class rider many tipped he would become after that other four-timer at Lismore.
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