Blake Shinn says he is “on the right path”, despite a frustrating run of placings so far in Hong Kong. Photo by HKJC.


Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Stats don’t tell full story as Shinn stays course to success

By Michael Cox @KemblaCoxy



Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Each week Michael Cox unpacks six stories from Hong Kong racing.


Careers can hinge on the black-and-white nature of results and there are no awards for unlucky seconds, but Blake Shinn can certainly take heart as he faces an early test of character and commitment in Hong Kong.

Just two meetings into his first full-time stint at Sha Tin, Shinn is winless but has finished second or third a frustrating seven times from just 17 starts.

To top that off, Shinn was served a three meeting suspension for careless riding that begins after Wednesday night’s meeting at Happy Valley.

If the Australian doesn’t win from one of his six rides at the city track he will have to wait until at least the seventh meeting of the season at the Valley on September 25 to break his duck.

Of his six rides at Happy Valley it might be his ride in the last that gives him a deserved win, the appropriately named Frustrated – Shinn’s first ride for powerful trainer Frankie Lor.

Not that Shinn is sweating on the statistics, with the 31-year-old keeping a cool head and thinking long term when he assesses his experience thus far.

“My overall analysis of my riding, when I weigh up all of the variables – coming into a new scene, with new jockeys on a new track and new horses – overall I would say I have done pretty well. I have a long way to go to where I want to be, but for the first two meetings I think I am on the right path. I haven’t ridden a winner and that’s the aim of the game, so I am not satisfied yet.”

Shinn’s start, albeit winless, compares favourably with fellow newcomer Lyle Hewitson.

The 21-year-old South African’s best results are a third, fourth and a fifth from 11 rides that have started at whopping average odds of $83.

Hewitson will also be serving an upcoming ban – but not courtesy of the Jockey Club stewards – with a failed appeal into a running and handing charge in South Africa meaning he will miss the next four meetings, effective immediately, and return at the same meeting as Shinn on September 25.


Yee Cheong bubble burst

Jimmy Ting’s promising young sprinter Yee Cheong Baby is likely to head back to Happy Valley next start but behavioural issues could put a cap on his progression beyond Class 2.

Sunday’s dirt sprint at Sha Tin was meant to be a simple stepping-stone to group races for the four-year-old but a pre-race meltdown was a precursor to a flat performance.

A post-race scope revealed substantial blood and jockey Zac Purton told stewards the 2.2 favourite “did not handle the pressure” of the 1200m sprint.

Purton wasn’t prepared to use the pre-race behaviour as an excuse and in the wash-up it might just be the case of a bubble bursting on another young sprint contender.


Well at least it’s not Seoul sand

Sha Tin’s all-weather track, which isn’t an all-weather track at all, but American dirt, at times cops more criticism than Hong Kong’s besieged Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The AWT is a bit like a football referee, you only ever notice when he or she is bad.

Inconsistent, biased and boring to watch racing are top of the list of complaints for the dirt, with compliments few and far between.

What is rarely mentioned is that the dirt is a training surface first and foremost, opens seven-days-per-week and requires 24-hour attention.

Without the dirt, there is no racing, and without its use as a racing surface for just over 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s races, the turf tracks could never stand up to the wear and tear of an ever-lengthening Hong Kong season.

The all-weather track’s tireless trackman Jim Howard – one of the HKJC’s unsung heroes – rarely hears a word of praise from media but here are some. On Sunday the track was fair, sure it was advantageous not to be rearward, but winners and place getters came from a variety of positions on the turn. This was in spite of horrible weather leading into the raceday that made track preparation far more difficult than normal.

And just like Blake Shinn can look at Lyle Hewitson for perspective, punters can take heart from the fact we don’t have to bet on Seoul simulcasts every week, where deep sand and filthy kickback make betting there an abomination.


Can Tower Of London stand up to Sprinters?

We will be waiting a long time for the next Lord Kanaloa to come out of Japan; the country’s middle distance and staying ranks are full of stars, but the ranks of sprinter-milers are generally just off the pace when it comes to International competition.

Lord Kanaloa was an on-track superstar that dominated in back-to-back Hong Kong Sprints and won a proper Group 1 over a mile back home.

Since then Japanese sprinters and milers haven’t made an impact at Sha Tin, but could Tower Of London be the one after his breakthrough win in the G2 Centaur Stakes this past Sunday?

A winner of three from five as a two-year-old and third in the Group 1 Futurity at the end of that season, Tower Of London mixed his form over a mile at three.

A return to shorter trips has unlocked what looks like Group 1 form, with Sunday’s win in record time coming after another in track record time, over 1400m in May.

All eyes will be on Tower Of London in the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes later this month when the Godolphin entire can show he is a cut above the top Japanese sprinters of recent years.


Magic Caspar combo

A big part of Joao Moreira’s climb back into championship contention will be re-building relationships lost during last season’s dalliance with Japanese racing and then stint as stable jockey for John Size.


Silver Fig (Tony Millard) was one of three winners for Joao Moreira at Sha Tin on Sunday. Photo by HKJC.


Even in the lead-up to Moreira’s departure at the end of his epic battle with eventual champion Zac Purton in 2017-18, the Brazilian wasn’t enjoying the same broad support he had enjoyed during his three-season reign as top jockey.

Wednesday’s meeting at Happy Valley is a big night for Moreira and his combination with Caspar Fownes, who helped fuel the jockey to his record-breaking season in 2016-17.

Moreira rode 170 wins that term and 19 of them came from Fownes at a phenomenal strike rate of 37 per cent.

Fownes provides four of Moreira’s eight rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday including top chances Green Luck and Perfect To Play.

“I’ve ridden them both in trials and they are in great condition,” Moreira said at trackwork on Monday.


So says sprinter ready to fire

Chris So has had to “press reset” on sprinter Best Smile more than once in the four-year-old’s brief career but believes the tear away speedster is ready to progress, starting with a maiden win on Wednesday night.

Best Smile was a Hong Kong International Sale purchase back in March last year and came to So with an abundance of natural ability but a tendency to want to use it all at once.

“He was out of control,” So said.

“He would just take off and it took a long time to get him to relax enough to even go to the races. We had to send him to Beas River to start again, he basically had to be broken in again.”

That remedial work and five trials didn’t stop Best Smile from becoming fractious before a scheduled debut in June and injuring jockey Regan Bayliss.

Best Smile was second over 1000m on debut at the Valley after that and returns to the same course and distance drawn gate one after an impressive pre-season trial under raceday jockey Zac Purton.


Six-Up Bonus: David Hayes to return to train in Hong Kong!

In a developing story, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is set to announce today (Tuesday) that they’ll be issuing a Trainer’s licence to David Hayes.

He will replace John Moore, who is retiring at the end of Season 2019/20.

David Hayes was last licensed to train in Hong Kong 14 years ago before returning to Australia for family reasons.

*added below at 10am HKT / 12noon AEST


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