The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced on Friday morning that Mark Newnham will be the newest addition to its training ranks for the 2023/24 racing season.
“Firstly, a big thank you to The Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Licensing Committee for this opportunity. It’s something that I have aspired to, even before I took out a trainers’ licence on my own – I have always had a huge interest in Hong Kong racing and to me it is the pinnacle of racing worldwide,” Newnham said.
Newnham has been a regular figure in the Sydney championship’s top 10 since taking out his licence in 2016. His stable has produced standout performers Shadow Hero, Maid Of Heaven, Nakeeta Jane, Splintex and Quackerjack among nearly 400 wins throughout his career as a trainer, including over 40 at black type level.
The Licensing Committee’s decision to license Newnham was announced by Mr Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing at Sha Tin Racecourse in front of media this morning.
“The Hong Kong Jockey Club has proven to be a world leader in racing for a long time, so as a trainer, to me it’s the top of the tree and is what I have aspired to achieve – for me, personally, it is an achievement getting here but there’s still a lot of hard work to do yet.
“The Club here, obviously has great talent, great facilities and ultra-competitive racing every Wednesday and every Sunday – to be given the opportunity to come here, live and work in a vibrant city like Hong Kong, it’s something that I treasure and very much will enjoy,” Newnham said.
Schooled by Hall of Fame trainers Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse, Newnham, 55, worked with several equine giants including Campaign King, Beau Zam, Tristanagh, Sky Chase and 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule alongside Cummings.
While with Waterhouse, Newnham rode the exceptional Pierro in trackwork throughout his successful 2013 Golden Slipper campaign and career before doing the same for 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente.
“I’ve had a few different roles in racing – I was a jockey for 20 years but I spent time working with the great Bart Cummings and I had the responsibility of travelling with a lot of his horses and his best horses.
“From there I had a successful apprenticeship and then moved to be one of Gai Waterhouse’s stable jockeys and from there to being her assistant trainer for five years. The five years I had with Gai were very successful – we won three Golden Slippers and a Melbourne Cup, so it wasn’t until 2016 that I decided to branch out on my own, and we’re approaching 400 winners in that seven seasons and 40 stakes wins, so it’s been very successful and a lot of that success is due to my Hong Kong ownership base,” Newnham said.
Newnham has built strong Hong Kong relationships with a great deal of his success coming in tandem with Hong Kong owners, while several of his past gallopers have made their way to the Far East to enjoy highly rewarding careers for their new trainers at Sha Tin.
“There’s quite a lot of horses that are in the system here that have been through my stables in Sydney – two this season, Nearly Fine – the Happy Valley specialist and The Irishman – another horse that has come through my stable. Originally, when I had started training, Mission Tycoon had won the Classic Cup – he had two starts for me and won them both before he came here, his owner Paul Cheng still has many horses in my stable,” Newnham said.
Shadow Hero – a two-time Group 1 winner for Newnham – is just one of a few big names to make their way to Hong Kong after enjoying success in Australia.
Newnham’s meticulous approach to achieving results in horse racing – with a smaller stable comparatively to rivals – had been on the Club’s radar for several years.
“Initially during (Hong Kong) International (Races) week in 2019, I asked Andrew (Harding) what the process would be in coming here and his answer was that I have been on the Jockey Club’s radar anyway, but continued results and when an opportunity came about, Andrew said ‘we will ring you’ and I was quite pleased to get his phone call,” Newnham said.
Newnham’s arrival will lift the current training roster from 22 to 23, while in previous seasons there has been as many as 24 handlers competing at once in Hong Kong.
Mr Andrew Harding said: “The trainer’s ranks in Hong Kong are ultra-competitive. We take the most elite trainers – people who have proven themselves in overseas countries and we bring them here, and then we have here, the best local talent. If one needs a metric of the quality of local talent, consider that last season and this season, four out of the five top trainers are local talents.
“Opportunities to introduce a new trainer do not come often and when they do, the Licensing Committee selects only those that meet a very high standard. Mark Newnham meets that standard, he’s an exceptional horseman, a travelling foreman for the ‘Cups King – Bart Cummings’, he’s ridden out in the United Kingdom and Ireland, he’s been stable jockey for Australian Hall of Fame trainer Gai Waterhouse and then assistant trainer to Gai.
“In 2016 he made the bold decision to strike out on his own, he backed himself and he has shown in spades that he is one of the best in his profession. Mark truly has all of the attributes that are required to be a highly successful trainer, exceptional horsemanship as well as all of the other competencies that are required in this modern era to be a highly successful trainer,” he said.