Literally speaking, jockey Keith Yeung was a long way from his native home of Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon. After all, he was in little Henderson, Ky., getting ready to ride his first Thoroughbred in America.
But it didn’t take long before Yeung felt right at home. He was in the winner’s circle, after riding trainer Dale Romans’ Lady Tipat to a thrilling neck victory in an allowance feature on the grass.
“It was exciting,” said Yeung, who was speaking to Ellis Park’s noted track publicist Jenne Rees after the race. “I said to Tammy (Romans’ assistant trainer and partner Tammy Fox) in the parade ring, it feels like the first time I was on a racehorse in Australia. I was so excited, my heart was pumping. I was really excited for this trip and getting on a horse in the race. Fortunately, I won the race — and nothing better than this.”
Yeung was introduced to American racing through Fox’s brother — Billy. Billy Fox — a jockey, as well — rode in Hong Kong at one time, and had mounts for a trainer that now employs Yeung. They had tried to get him to the States to ride before, but had difficulty getting the proper paperwork completed to allow for a stateside visit.
This time, though, they were able to get the proper visas, and Yeung was able to get to Kentucky. The 29-year-old has now won races in Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, and, drum roll please, Kentucky. He traveled here from Hong Kong after the season ended there on July 16. He is scheduled to be in the Commonwealth for two more weeks, and will be working horses at Churchill Downs for the Romans’ crew.
After Sunday’s success, he may get a few more mounts at Ellis Park, too. He is already scheduled to ride for Romans on Friday and Saturday for Romans.
“He’s a world-class jockey — showing up at Ellis Park,” said Romans, who talked to Rees after the race. Romans had visited Hong Kong in 2013. “The takeaway is that Ellis Park is getting bigger and bigger on the world stage. Everything about Ellis is on a major upswing…Happy Valley (Hong Kong, where Yeung normally rides) is right in the center of downtown, like being in Times Square. And Ellis Park is in the center of a cornfield. It just goes to show that horse racing is popular no matter where you go.”
Flying Tipat, the 2-1 favorite owned by Louisville’s own Frank Jones, covered the 11/16 mile course in 1:43.09 to garner her third career win. A little later in the card, Yeung rode Romans’ Iconic to a third place finish in a Maiden Special Weight event.