The New Zealand thoroughbred industry was saddened this week to hear of the passing of young apprentice jockey Yong Chew in his native Malaysia.
The news rocked his friends and colleagues in New Zealand, particularly the Robinson family, with Chew apprenticed to Riccarton trainer Lance Robinson over the last two years.
“He went home two weeks ago,” Robinson said. “He spent a week in quarantine in Penang hospital and got home and spent time with his family for a week, so that was good.
“He had been battling an aggressive form of throat cancer for just on six months. He was determined that he was going to beat it. He went through chemo and all the treatments.”
With his family unable to travel to New Zealand, the industry got in behind the young rider, raising funds to cover the cost of his return to his homeland to spend his last days with his family.
“It cost a lot to get him home with the care involved, so thanks to Go Racing for making that possible, they were huge with organising a golf day with all proceeds going to him,” Robinson said.
“NZTR (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing) were really good to him too. They were fantastic and couldn’t have done anymore with the help they gave him.”
Chew spent two years with Robinson and he said he became very close with his family over that period.
“He lived with us for the last six months, so we went on the ride with him,” Robinson said. “He was like family.”
Initially beginning his career in Singapore under trainer Michael Clements, Chew moved to New Zealand a few years ago to further his riding career.
“He was apprenticed to Michael Clements where he spent two years before Michael sent him out here to get more experience because he thought he could make it,” Robinson said.
“He spent 18 months with Frank Ritchie (in Cambridge) and he decided he was better placed down here where he would get more opportunities.
“We got him down here and he spent two years with us. He rode five winners and was a kid who was going to be alright.”
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s South Island Riding Master David Walsh spent plenty of time with Chew and said he was a pleasure to have in apprentice school.
“He was a lovely, young fella and he was always the first to come to apprentice school and always had a smile on his face and was super positive,” Walsh said.
“As recently as August, and he was quite sick, he came to our apprentice awards where he won the Salvation Army Courage Under Fire award.
“We didn’t expect him to come but he turned up and got on the stage and he showed all his heart and courage right the way through.
“He rode part of two years, but really only rode for one season. He had a couple of injuries and then he got sick.
“He was going well and the races that he won early on he rode really well.”