He enjoyed a freshen up in Bali and Phuket but Hugh Bowman admits his suspension was “a little too long” for his liking ahead of his return to the coalface at Sha Tin on Saturday.
After missing five meetings, Bowman heads to Sha Tin armed with a strong book of eight rides, headlined by last season’s Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) runner-up Tuchel in the Class One Panasonic Cup (1,400m).
“I’m looking forward to getting back,” Bowman said. “It’s been a little too long. It was unfortunate to get the two suspensions, but it is what it is.”
The Australian jockey has made a scintillating start to the season, notching 20 wins from 89 rides, and gets aboard the John Size-trained Tuchel for the first time in Saturday’s feature.
“He’s a consistent horse and was one of the top-rated horses for the Derby last year,” Bowman said of the 106-rated gelding. “John’s bided his time with him. He’s got some class, there’s no doubt about it, but he’s giving weight to other class horses.”
Size is on the cusp of becoming only the second handler after John Moore to prepare 1,500 winners in Hong Kong and hopes to reach the milestone sooner rather than later.
“One thing about records or milestones that you attain, they’re there forever, they’re part of history and they’re pretty important. Hopefully, I’ll get the 1,500 soon and we’ll put it behind us,” Size said.
“Tuchel has had a good break and a bit of time off to try and recuperate. He seems all right at the moment, and we’ll learn more when we go to the races.
“He’s got a handicap that he has to live up to and he has to perform first up from a break, which is not easy to do.”
A seven-time winner from 16 starts, Tuchel advanced 36 points in the ratings last season, and Bowman appreciates the challenge of carrying top weight of 135 pounds.
“What I’ve learned since arriving in Hong Kong is it’s hard for these high-class horses to carry
the 135. It’s been my bread and butter carrying 130 plus on the lower class horses, but on the higher class horses it’s very hard for them,” Bowman said.
“We’ll see how we go. If he can win with that weight it will put him in good stead for the remainder of the season. He’s a horse that wants a mile or maybe 1,800m, so it’s a starting point.”
After being overtaken in the jockeys’ premiership by Zac Purton during his absence, Bowman will be eager to begin eating away at his countryman’s two-win lead this weekend.
Also among his winning hopes is impressive first-up victor Invincible Sage, who he partners in the Panasonic 4KTV Handicap (1,000m).
“He was dominant off a pretty hot speed last start. Hopefully they run along again and I’ll switch him off wherever he’s comfortable,” Bowman said.
Unsuccessful from three post-import appearances last term, Invincible Sage brushed aside his rivals down the Sha Tin straight on October 22, and Bowman believes the speedster could eventually compete with the big guns of the sprinting division.
“He’s grown and strengthened up from his last preparation to this one, and there’s no reason why he can’t repeat that performance,” Bowman said.
“Outside [Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington], we’re waiting to see who’s going to put their hand up. I’ll be as interested as everyone else to see where this guy measures up, whether it’s now or six or 12 months away. He’s a pretty handy horse.”
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