Blake Shinn capped off a tumultuous week which saw him sacked from a Group One ride on Tuesday to win a drama-filled Classic Mile on Sunday aboard $23 hope Excellent Proposal.
The result epitomises the up-and-down nature of Hong Kong racing, with Shinn having just 23 winners from 621 rides before the breakthrough in the HK$12 million feature aboard the John Size-trained galloper, who was disregarded by punters after a disappointing last-start performance.
The Australian got the call-up from Size after Joao Moreira opted to ride Caspar Fownes’ Sky Darci, who went on to finish sixth.
Shinn, who was granted a licence extension during the week, said the victory made his Hong Kong journey worth it after falling agonisingly short in the Derby aboard $290 chance Playa Del Puente last year.
“[Size] could have chosen any other rider ahead of me so I don’t know why he chose me, but I am very grateful he did,” he said post-race.
“To win a Classic Mile here is unreal, it makes it worthwhile because it’s one of the big ones.
“We went close in the Derby last year, but what makes it more special is the fact I have had to work hard to keep my name out there.
“I have been waiting for that opportunity and we got it today. I grabbed it with both hands and delivered – I could have easily gone home but I wanted to extend because I knew what I have to offer here.”
After being beaten by more than six lengths in his last start, it required a training masterpiece from Size and he delivered when it mattered most.
“He showed earlier this season he was a force to be reckoned with in the Derby, I am not sure what happened first-up but he turned it on today and I was a lucky recipient,” Shinn said.
“His last start was one of those unknown things that [Size] couldn’t put his finger on so he said to me ‘don’t worry, ride the horse confidently’ and then the horse did the rest.”
The race quickly changed complexion after second favourite Enrich Delight ($3.60) broke down 1,050m from home after travelling in the box seat.
Incredibly, jockeys – including Shinn – were able to navigate around Enrich Delight, who was later euthanised by Jockey Club vets after suffering multiple fractures in his left fore fetlock.
From there, Shinn settled third-last and peeled out behind Healthy Happy on the turn before putting the race to bed 300m from home, holding off Lucky Express and Tourbillon Diamond in the run to the line.
“He did everything I asked and I got on the back of Vincent Ho [Chak-yiu] at the 600m and let him take me into the turn and then I built his revs up through the turn, the race was won at the 300m so he kept going through the line,” he said.
After copping the wrath of Douglas Whyte earlier in the week for missing Stronger’s trial before the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m), Shinn admitted he was disappointed in himself to lose the ride.
He hopes his triumph aboard Excellent Proposal can go some way to rebuilding his reputation in Hong Kong as he looks to take some momentum into the Classic Cup next month.
“It is really gratifying,” he said. “It has been a testing time since I have been in Hong Kong but I have had to just remain positive and keep believing in myself.
“I couldn’t have won this race without John Size, he instilled faith in me so he is the first
person I would like to thank, along with my close-knit people behind me who have supported me on my journey in Hong Kong.
“Tuesday was an honest mistake, I was disappointed in myself because I let myself down along with the connections of Stronger, but to bounce back and make the most of this opportunity is very special.”