We chat to born-and-bred Hong Konger Sherie about how she became a jockey, the special connection she has with horses and some of the biggest challenges she’s faced on her way to becoming a true Hong Kong first!
Fill us in on your background and where you grew up?
I’m a true Hong Kong girl; both of my parents are from Hong Kong and I was born here too, growing up near the famous Lai Yuen Amusement Park in Mei Foo (it no longer exists!). I started training to be a jockey when I was 16 years old and got married to a French jockey, Eric Legrix, when I was 21. We’ve since lived in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and France… but my heart will always be in Hong Kong!
How would you describe your personal style? Where do you like to shop in Hong Kong?
I like to dress smart-casual, for instance matching a stylish white shirt with jeans. I love going to the small shops down the side streets in Causeway Bay – I can always find something special in the boutiques there!
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
My favourite restaurant is Morton’s because I love steak! Plus they also have their own bar there too…
What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong?
I love Repulse Bay! We had our wedding party for over 350 people at the alfresco restaurant there, so the place will always hold special memories for me.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in Hong Kong?
My perfect weekend would be spent on a boat; the sun, the sea… what gets better than that?!
How did you become a jockey?
I became a jockey because I didn’t like school! Actually, my first contact with horses was due to my father; when I was 13 years old, his doctor advised him to take up riding as therapy for a thyroid disorder and also to help him de-stress from his job (when you’re riding, you can’t think about anything but riding itself!). My dad didn’t believe the doctor but gave it a try anyway – initially, he was really scared of riding the horse and thought he’d fall off! I came along with him as I thought horses sounded interesting and I wanted to see him ride. Then I asked if I could try riding the horse… since then I’ve never looked back!
I rode for three years just for pleasure, then joined an apprentice women’s class at the Hong Kong Jockey Club when I was 16 years old. There aren’t many opportunities for young people to ride in Hong Kong, so I was fairly confident I could become a successful jockey here. I had been riding on my own for so long as well, and I already felt in touch with horses. I then trained for a year and a half to be an apprentice jockey, before riding my first professional race aged 17.
What were some of the most memorable moments in your career?
Of course, my most memorable ride has to be my very first professional race in 1993, aged 17 – that’s what gave me the title of being Hong Kong’s first female jockey! One of my other favourite races was when I won and my husband, Eric, came second!
What are the most important qualities for a good jockey? How much is dependent on the skill of the jockey and how much is dependent on the horse?
As a jockey, you have to be fit all the time – luckily, I was always light as a kid so was able to keep my weight down easily. However, the most important thing is that you are “brain-to-brain” and “heart-to-heart” with your horse at all times! You can’t just tell a horse what to do – you have to learn to do it together.
Horses are just like people – each one has a different personality. The best jockeys must be able to ride any horse… good horses, bad horses and naughty horses! Teaching each horse how to listen to its rider and how to make it win makes a great jockey.
What were the best and worst things about being a jockey?
The best part was the glory of the winning – standing at the winning post and seeing the moment you won! I also just loved the feeling of riding itself… it’s indescribable. I really enjoy going at the fastest possible gallop – that feeling of speed that only riding a horse can give you. Knowing that it’s you who has controlled that speed, and that special connection you have with your horse.
The worst was when I had the accident that ended my racing career. After my accident, I developed a kidney disorder that meant I needed to take steroids – and as taking steroids is illegal for jockeys, sadly I could no longer race professionally. But of course, I still ride for pleasure all the time.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Throughout my life and career, I’ve faced many difficulties – becoming the first female jockey in Hong Kong, my injuries, the difficulties of having my children (my first was an IVF baby) – but you have to not dwell on these things and just carry on. For instance, the medication I had to take for my injury has made my bones really weak; I’m 39 years old but have the bones of a fifty year old! You just have to keep living your life and never give up.
You’ve grown up and lived in HK for most of your life. Is there anything you miss about it from when you were little?
I grew up in the New Territories; around Sha Tin Racecourse used to be just land, but now it’s all new buildings and developments… I still miss that countryside view!
What’s the best advice you have been given and why?
I always say happiness and health are the most important things in life. Never give up!
All photos in the That Girl article above were taken by the hugely talented Martice Milton of Martice Milton Photography – get in touch with her at [email protected]. Sherie’s make-up was done by Ming Wong of WGallery.
Check out the rest of our That Girls here!