The First Trainer From Russia With Horses
Nikolai Markovich Tiukavkin (N M Thomas) could be the earliest Russian trainer or even among all horse trainers officially recorded in Hongkong.
Before WWII, he trained horses with Prefix ‘KING’ or Suffix ‘BRIDGE’ named and owned by Mr and Mrs T E Pearce accordingly, each with one Derby winner.
After WWII, he trained ATAMAN and CLONFECKLE, the former won the Derby in 1948 while the latter in 1950.
Totally, 4 Dery winners were saddled by Tiukavkin.
According to Greenstreet Kan’s《Tales of Horse Racing》Part 2:
〈A Page Of White Russian Trainers〉
“The name of Belarus, now, no one knows what it is.
In fact, one thing should be clear first.
Because in the Soviet Union, there is indeed one member of the federations called “Belarus”, English is (Byelorussia), and there is even a list of the Permanent Representatives of Belarus to the United Nations.
However, I said that in the Hong Kong racing circle, the once-strong “White Russian” people have nothing to do with the “Byelorussia”.
However, why do they call them “White Russians”? That is because their origins are just opposite to the “Russian” under the Socialist Communist Party.
Some sort of relationship has they had with the Russian aristocracy in the Tsarist era, even people who had any link will be forced to leave their homeland after the “Red Russia” is in power.
There is a very strange phenomenon, that is, these white Russians, a lot of trainers, but these years, they have rarely participated in horse riding.
There is only one, Ostromouf, a big exception. He was the first champion jockey in the Hong Kong racing after WWII.
Apart from him, the young son Dema Thomas of Tiukavkin, rode in Hong Kong for a short period of time, then, he went abroad without returning.”
Contents below with “quotation mark” are the original 2017 emails written by his son Dema Wadim Nikolai Thomas, a jockey raced after WWII.
Contents below with『white corner bracket』are the original 1970s excerpts according to Shen Kut-shing (Lo Kut) ‘s《30 Year In Racecourse》.
1900-05-09, Nikolai Markovich Tiukavkin was born in Siberia.
“My father grew up in Siberia in an area between Chita and the Chinese border.
As soon as he was old enough he joined the Russian Tsar’s army.
He was a Cossack stationed not far from the Chinese border.
During the Russian revolution, he was wounded in the leg.
When they lost the war to the Reds, my father and a lot of Russians mounted their horses and headed for the Chinese border.
My father then headed towards Harbin, which was partially developed by the Russians when they built the railway from Mongolia to Vladivostok.
In Harbin, he married a Russian woman named Anna Andreev.
My father worked with a Russian horse trader.
They traveled up and down the Chinese coast selling horses, mainly in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
When my father got a job as a horse trainer with the HKJC, he shifted his family from Harbin to Hong Kong, approx, 1929.
My father now settled down to his daily routines.
Horse training, morning gallops, supervising horse feeding and looking after his family.
I started school in St. Joseph’s College.
At this stage, my main interests were studies, my school mates, mainly Chinese and a sprinkling of Russian and Macanese students (from Macao).
On weekends my father took us picnicking in the hills just above the horse stables or swimming in Repulse Bay.
In the mornings before school, my father started to teach me how to ride horses.
Mr Metravelli and the Tokmakoffs became very friendly with me
I was very interested in sport, mainly athletics, soccer, and hockey.”
According to Shen Kut-shing (Lo Kut) ‘s《30 Year In Racecourse》page 9:
After HKJC approved the Chinese jockeys could compete for the races with conditions, Chinese leading owners firstly employed trainers in Shanghai then came to Hongkong (There were Russian trainers initially in the club, later Chinese trainers).
Among the Russian (Belorussian) trainers, there were Tiukavkin (later he became a naturalized British citizen with the guarantee by Pearce, chairman of the club, renamed Thomas, his son Wadim Thomas was also made an exception to be a jockey.
( According to the Club’s rules, salaried trainers’ descendants could not join the club as amateur jockeys, but due to the honesty of Thomas that Pearce did his best in the matter.)
Tokmokoff, (just retired to Australia in the previous year, he was Thomas’s best friend, the then trainer, Au Kam Hung was once his assistant.)
Sofronoff, he was introduced by Thomas who was in Australia, and also there was another trainer nicknamed “Cap Guy”, Krasnoporoff, had resigned, then to Australia and returned to Hong Kong again as a trainer, but died of heart disease here.
All British and Indian had to be detained in a concentration camp by the Japanese, but excluded the Belorussian, European, and the Chinese of course too, because the Japanese claimed the so-called “The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” at that time, they naturally were not hostile to the Chinese in Hong Kong.
They could not find out so many European and Chinese people got British citizenship by naturalization, there was Tiukavkin, the stable trainer at that time (later he renamed as Thomas after naturalized as a British citizen, he was the father of Wadim Thomas, who joined the Jockey Club as a rider after WWII).』
Statistic records verified from different sources so far can list out 29 winners saddled by Tiukavkin between 1930-11-08_04 — 1950-04-10_12.
During the Japanese occupation, two entirely different accounts were recorded related to Mr Tiukavkin’s training career.
Tragically, Tiukavkin was captured and suffering badly, depicted by his son, Dema Wadim Nikolai Thomas.
Terrifically, Tiukavkin was free to train and even won lots of good races, depicted by journalist-owner Shen Kut-shing (Lo Kut).
The villagers informed us that the war was over.
We immediately headed to Mr Needa‘s house to thank him and to rejoin with my stepmother and stepsister, Olga.
We got across on the Star Ferry and headed towards the HKJC stables, where we were welcomed by Mr Metravelli and Mr and Mrs Tokmakoff.
The Red Cross was very helpful and the British army gave us a big box full of tinned food.
While waiting for the HKJC to start again, dad got a temporary job in a restaurant.
St Joseph’s college did not restart for one year after the war.
Eventually, the HKJC restarted and Dad went back to horse training and I went back to school.
On July 1950 we boarded the SS Changsha and sailed to Brisbane, Australia.
We arrived at a wharf in Brisbane River and were met by Mr Sofronoff who took us to his home in Mitchelton, which is a suburb of Brisbane.
We stayed with the Sofronoff’s for approx 2 weeks while my dad and I searched for a house to buy.
We found a suitable house in Bardon, which is a suburb of Brisbane.
My dad and stepmom then got busy with settling into the new home.”
According to Shen Kut-shing (Lo Kut) ‘s《30 Year In Racecourse》page 9, the year 1921 after verification should be 1927:
1927-02-28 Annual-Chinese Owner 《Hong Kong Telegraph》
《Hong Kong Telegraph》 From the race book there were only two owners definitely identifiable as Chinese. One was Mr Ho Kom-tong, who had seven ponies in his “Hall” stable, and had his first win with KOM TONG HALL in the Valley Stakes. The other was Mr Yung Hing-lun, of a family long identified with the Compradore Department of the Chartered Bank, and a keen cricketer and tennis-player. He had but one pony, “THE PINK LADY”.
The first Chinese jockeys were a Shanghai quartet. They scored only a few places at the Annual, but at the Extra Meetings began winning in good style.
Wong tsang-lián rode for H P White.
Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah; Mr Peter Yuen; Mr Dema Thomas; HKJC Archives; Hong Kong Racing Museum for relevant content.