Jockey Sunny Ho, a 40-year-old native of Hong Kong, scored his first U.S. victory and only his second career win when he hustled 59-1 Peters Punkin to a hard-fought triumph in the fifth race at Golden Gate Fields Thursday.
Ho and Peters Punkin held off Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze and Twelveyearslater down the stretch to win the one-mile race for fillies and mares by a neck. Peters Punkin paid $121.20 to win.
Peters Punkin is trained by James K. Li and owned by Ho's father, Sung Kit Ho, who claimed the 3-year-old filly for $8,000 on Oct. 31 at Bay Meadows. According to Sunny Ho, his father claimed Peters Punkin just so he could ride the horse.
According to Li, Ho won one race in Hong Kong in 1983 and it was his only victory from a limited number of starts there.
Ho said he couldn't become a jockey in Hong Kong because of a rule requiring an individual to win 10 races by age 23. He didn't meet that requirement, so he worked as an exercise rider. He has spent more than 20 years working horses.
Ho came to the U.S. in December 2001 and has been working primarily as an exercise rider for Li and trainer Lloyd Mason.
"I'm very happy for Sunny," said Li. "He wanted to win bad. Hopefully other people will start to give him a chance."
When asked what he was thinking while battling Baze in the stretch, Ho said, "I just kept thinking, 'push, push, push, push.' The horse was trying, so I just hand rode him rather than use my whip."