Blake Shinn’s positive start and other takeaways from the season opener
While he didn’t land a winner, Shinn made an impressive start to his Hong Kong career and he looks set for a big season.
Shinn’s horses responded to his efficient style (he gets very low and there are no wasted movements) – finishing second with his first three rides.
The 31-year-old is already getting support – he had eight rides on Sunday and is booked for nine this weekend.
Trainers are keen to see what he is capable of, hoping he presents another viable top-tier riding option behind the duopoly of Zac Purton and Joao Moreira.
Shinn has been working hard on and off the training track, studying the form fastidiously to give himself the best possible chance of being successful.
While it is unrealistic to think he will challenge Purton and Moreira for the championship in his
first season, it wouldn’t shock to see him finish in third place if everything goes his way.
Domeyer should buy a lottery ticket
After a strong finish to last season, Aldo Domeyer picked up where he left off by securing a double on the opening day, but it came at a cost – a four-meeting suspension for careless riding.
The South African has made a big impression since arriving at the back-end of last term with his overall Hong Kong record now standing at 15 wins from 120 rides, but he dodged a bullet after causing some pretty severe (and unnecessary) interference when saluting with Sunshine Warrior.
Domeyer was the beneficiary of a benevolent Kim Kelly, the chief steward and his team opting to charge him with careless riding despite considering the more serious charge of reckless riding.
Given he wasn’t that far away from putting Dylan Mo Hin-tung and Moreira through the running rail and he used the whip when Sunshine Warrior had already made contact with Casimiro, Domeyer can consider himself lucky to only be missing four meetings.
Cruz off to a flier
Tony Cruz is always among the top handful on the trainers’ championship table and he got his season off to a flying start with a treble.
The local legend has hit the ground running – he also had a couple of placings to go with those three winners – and he looks to have another strong hand with eight runners on Sunday.
Cruz has a full complement of 70 horses on his books, he has trained at least 50 winners in each of the past four seasons and he looks primed for another successful campaign.
The local legend has won two training titles in his career, but the most recent was in 2004-05.
It would take a big effort to knock off John Size, who has won the past four titles, but given he has plenty of ammunition, Cruz has to be considered some chance of collecting his third championship if things break his way.
Legend continues winning ways
Danny Shum Chap-shing is another off to a strong start to the season and his high hopes for up-and-coming sprinter Regency Legend were franked with an easy win in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup.
The trainer is eyeing off a start in December’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint and given the four-year-old is still undefeated after four runs since arriving at Sha Tin, it is hard to knock him.
One concern though is his health, the gelding found to have substantial blood in his trachea after Sunday’s run – the second time that has happened.
Regency Legend won’t run again until the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint in November, but those fitness issues probably need to be resolved for him to be competitive at the very top level.
Hong Kong racing exists in a bubble
Despite all the turmoil around Hong Kong – and the addition of Betfair Australia to the international wagering scene – it appears very little can derail racing in these parts.
Betting turnover was actually up – despite the fears of Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges – while attendance was only marginally down.
There was a real concern that protesters were going to make their presence felt at the opening meeting, but it was pretty much business as usual.
The Jockey Club has remained neutral through all the political unrest, there were no government officials on course and fans clearly relished the chance to escape all the turmoil and do what they normally do on a Sunday – focus on the racing.