Brazilian jockeys have made waves in Hong Kong in recent years and Vagner Borges is hoping to make a noticeable first ripple when he steps out for his Hong Kong debut at Sha Tin on Monday, 1 July.
The Rio de Janeiro-based jockey is licensed to ride the final five meetings of the Hong Kong season, which concludes on Sunday, 14 July. Borges’ first action will come on Monday, 1 July and he is excited to have been afforded the “dream” opportunity.
“My first impression of Hong Kong is very good, it’s more than I imagined. I’m very pleased to be here, very excited about it, and I really want to enjoy every minute of the whole experience – learn, work and, of course, win races. It’s like a dream coming true and I can’t believe I’m actually here,” he said through an interpreter during a media session at Sha Tin Racecourse this morning, Friday, 28 June.
Borges, 26, will join fellow Brazilian and three-time Hong Kong champion Joao Moreira on the Hong Kong Jockey Club roster. Moreira and regular short-term visitor Silvestre de Sousa, Britain’s three-time champion, have lifted the profile of Brazilian riders in recent years.
“They are like superheroes for the jockeys back home: every jockey would one day like to become a Silvestre de Sousa and a Joao Moreira,” Borges said.
“Moreira is somebody that every jockey in Brazil looks for: we all want to be where Moreira is. I’ve been planning to go overseas by doing the right things, working hard and studying English, with the idea to one day get here. But I could never have imagined that I could come straight from Brazil to Hong Kong: I thought I’d have to go to another country, maybe two or three countries, and spend a while there before I’d be able to come to Hong Kong.”
Borges, though, has already achieved enough to earn a first short stint. A precocious sensation, he set a new record for an apprentice with his 374th win in December 2011 and was crowned champion jockey for the first time the following term – he now has four championships under his belt, as well as the Brazilian triple crown in tandem with the outstanding South American champion Bal A Bali.
“I am passionate about horseracing,” he said. “After my family, the thing I love most is riding a horse; I can’t imagine life without riding a horse and being a jockey.
“I started riding when I was 11 years old and I fell in love with thoroughbreds, with race horses. When I was very young, I wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro to ride at the Jockey Club de Brazil. I got to Rio when I was 16 years old and it was a dream because I really wanted to ride with the main jockeys in Brazil.
“Now, I’m overwhelmed to be able to ride with these jockeys in Hong Kong. I’m excited to learn and also show what I can do, because I’ve been doing this since I was very young.”
Borges is hoping to show enough in his late-season spell to merit a longer licence in the future.
“I really want to come back, I already love Hong Kong and the racetrack here at Sha Tin, but first I need to show what I can do and see if they want me to come back. I’d like to come here and stay here as long as the Hong Kong Jockey Club allows me,” he said.
Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “It is no exaggeration to say that Vagner Borges is one of the brightest stars in South American racing. He was a precocious apprentice and after graduating he certainly made his mark, winning his first Brazil championship in the 2011/12 season when still in his teens.
“The diversity of riding talent from around the world is one of the defining features of Hong Kong racing, and, with his CV, Vagner certainly finds his place in the roster. The final five race meetings provide a very welcome opportunity for us to introduce this exciting South American talent to Hong Kong.”