Blake Shinn tuned up for the biggest week of his Hong Kong career so far with a winner at Sha Tin on Saturday, with Golden Four’s victory adding to his excitement eight days out from his first Group One rides.
Shinn is four months into his Hong Kong stint but is yet to ride at the top level, but that will all change next Sunday when he partners D B Pin in the Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) and Southern Legend in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m).
And while it has been a slow start for the Australian, who was among the top echelon of jockeys in his home country before making the move, he is pleased to see his hard work pay off, even if he is far from content with his efforts so far.
“I’ve ran too many seconds, not enough winners, so I’m not satisfied but the support’s been very good,” said Shinn, who has landed eight victories, 20 seconds and 12 thirds this term.
“I have got to get better results but I’m working hard and I think people can see that. I’ll just keep my head down and bum up.
“I’m here for the long haul and I’m rapt to get the chance in a Group One, that’s what it’s about and that’s what we’re here for.”
Shinn has trialled D B Pin twice since the seven-year-old’s close seventh in the Hong Kong Sprint and is hopeful he can return to somewhere near his Group One-winning best.
“I’m excited, I appreciate that John Size has given me the chance on him. I’ve trialled him a couple of times and I’ve got a bit of an understanding of him,” Shinn said.
“He’s a top-class sprinter and I think he’s certainly capable of running a big race, his run in the international sprint was tremendous.”
Southern Legend finished eighth of nine in Wednesday’s Group Three January Cup (1,800m) at Happy Valley but Shinn expects an improved performance at Sha Tin.
“He’s an old warrior, he keeps turning up,” Shinn said. “He saves his best for Sha Tin, you can put a line through his run the other night. He’s a proven top-liner.”
And in a nice little kicker for Shinn, he has secured the ride on the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Playa Del Puente for the Classic Mile on January 27.
“It’s a competitive field but he’s proven he’s got some quality about him,” Shinn said of the four-year-old, who has won once from five Class Two runs to begin his Hong Kong career.
Chang snares first double in almost two years
Michael Chang Chun-wai collected his first double since February 25, 2018 as Winning Together joined Golden Four in the winner’s circle on Saturday afternoon.
The popular trainer almost had a treble too – Righteous Doctrine finished second in the eighth event – but he couldn’t snap that drought, which has been running since April 2014.
Chang hasn’t enjoyed the best luck this season, as his record of seven winners and 20 seconds would suggest, but he’s taking it all in his stride.
“It’s always nice to have winners,” he said. “But [the run of seconds] hasn’t been frustrating – I think my horses have been performing well. They’ve just been getting beaten by a better horse, I’ve got no excuses.”
Winning Together secured his first win at his ninth start after the Irish import flashed home under the guidance of Matthew Chadwick.
“He’s a very typical European horse, they need time,” Chang said. “Now he’s getting mature and the ground is helping him a bit. It was typical ‘A’ course, horses were coming down the outside.”
Golden Four made it a race-to-race double when Shinn navigated his way through the field to take out the Class Four South Wall Handicap (1,400m).
“Blake was able to save a lot of ground and come through on the inside,” Chang said. “That’s why he still had more to give in the last 200m.”
HKIS to be cut in half
The Hong Kong International Sale will be wound down next year with the Jockey Club opting for an alternative approach to maintaining their horse population.
The biannual sale will be halved to one a year from 2021 with the Jockey Club also changing tact on their buying strategy, employing separate contractors for both the northern and southern hemispheres.
The Hong Kong International Sale is a result of the Jockey Club purchasing bloodstock from around the world and then on-selling to its members in an auction setting at Sha Tin.
With Pakistan Star’s retirement from Hong Kong racing, it leaves the Jockey Club without a stand-out International Sales Griffin [ISG] purchase on the books.
Director of racing business and operations Bill Nader confirmed the move to cut back on the amount of sales but denied it was to do with the on-track performance of the ISGs.
“That [cutting back] has always been the plan,” he said. “Initially when we opened up Conghua in 2018, the plan was to have two sales for a period of time.
“With that, 2020 would be the last time that we would have two sales and then we revert back to the one-sale format in 2021.
“The reason for that has to do with the horse population reaching a level which we had hoped it would reach, now we just need to maintain it.”
Australian-based bloodstock agent Craig Rounsefell bought his first yearling for the Jockey Club at the Magic Millions sale on the Gold Coast this week.
Rounsefell bought two colts at the sale for A$160,000 (HK$854,000) and A$140,000 (HK$747,000) respectively on Friday afternoon.
“The plan is to go back to one sale next year. We have utilised Conghua to expand the horse population because we had the extra space to do so,” Nader said.
“There will be a sale in March, a sale in July and then in 2021 it will most likely just be the sale in March”
Other notable Hong Kong-based purchases at the sale included Big Party’s full-brother for A$900,000 (HK$4.8m) by George Moore Bloodstock.
International flavour at Sha Tin next week
Big-name international jockeys Hugh Bowman and Christophe Soumillon are flying into Hong Kong to compete at next weekend’s Stewards’ Cup meeting.
The star Australian will continue his association with Hong Kong Derby hero Furore in the Stewards’ Cup while he will also be aboard Mr Stunning in the Centenary Sprint Cup.
The Frenchman, who won the Group One Hong Kong Mile last month with Admire Mars, jumps aboard Richard Gibson’s Wishful Thinker in the feature sprint.