You have to roll with the punches, says Delpech
An ability to roll with the punches has probably been the saving grace for Anthony Delpech in a roller-coaster Hong Kong riding career, and the innate promise of piloting Vengeance Of Rain has largely been the source of that talent.
Delpech is well aware how tenuous his grip on the David Ferraris-trained gelding's reins has been at times, but is hoping victory in the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic over 2,400m can erase the memory of how close his sacking was after finishing third to Pride in last December's Hong Kong Cup. 'I've ridden a lot for David in South Africa and Hong Kong and, well, we get along great when we're winning,' Delpech smiled yesterday. 'It hasn't been easy. I mean, when you're riding the best horse, anywhere, and you get beaten then you get criticised.
'David wasn't happy after the Hong Kong Cup and wanted to change jockeys, but the owners appreciated that I've already won all these big races on the horse and were very staunch. But then that is the pressure of a really good horse. It's easy in the early days but once Vengeance Of Rain made that step to being clearly the best horse, I had to perform and had to win - losing isn't good enough. And it's even more intense in Hong Kong - truly, I feel it less coming here.'
Delpech is no stranger to Nad Al Sheba, having had stints prior to his move to Hong Kong, but admits the place has changed. 'I did extremely well my first four-month stint in Dubai, then pretty well for six months the next time, but it has grown a lot in the four years I've been away,' Delpech reflected. 'It's an exciting place and especially this time of year with all the big names. To come back here to win one of these races with a Hong Kong horse would make me really proud.'
The South African admits this domestic season has not been everything he had hoped for, but shrugs at the roller coaster of Hong Kong.
'That's the place. My first season, I let it upset me but I've learned to handle how things go. The guys not doing so well are boxing for the fifth or sixth-best rides but you know that if you get on a winning roll then suddenly you're getting all the best rides off other guys,' he said.
'I had a good start this season then it all went quiet. You pick up winners but you don't know when the next one will be. It's hard but it's Hong Kong and you can't change it. The most important thing to me is Vengeance Of Rain. That's why I've lasted so long. I really look forward to riding him, I know how good he is and that's why we're here.
'Up until now, we've had the edge - it's hard for anyone to come to Hong Kong and beat us at home - now we're on the other side, but he's as good as anyone in the race.'