Shea eager to make most of Vengeance opportunity
Kevin Shea regards his engagement for champion Vengeance Of Rain in next week's International Mile Trial as 'a privilege' that has added a fresh dimension to his first contract as a club jockey.
South African Shea, 44, picked up the mount on the reigning Horse of the Year after his friend and compatriot Anthony Delpech was suspended. In Delpech's absence, Shea was thrilled to get a feel for the world-class stayer in a barrier trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
New Zealand-bred gelding Vengeance Of Rain won the trial comfortably against Class Four galloper Lucky Money Star as he continued his preparation for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup on December 9.
'He might have even gone a bit better than expected,' Shea said. 'We didn't particularly want to go to the front but when nothing else wanted to lead, he relaxed nicely and did the job very professionally.'
Shea said he was 'very grateful' to trainer David Ferraris and managing owner Raymond Chow Hon-man for the faith they have shown in his ability to take over from Delpech, who has been Vengeance's pilot since he began winning in early 2005.
'When you are invited to ride a horse like him, it's a privilege,' he said. 'It feels very good to know the owner and trainer have confidence in you because they are entrusting you with a great horse. It's a lovely compliment to know people have chosen you to ride a horse who, let's face it, is one of the best in the world.'
Not that the experience will be anything new for Shea, the former champion jockey of South Africa.
'I've been lucky to ride for a number of leading trainers like David Ferraris and his father, Ormond, Mike de Kock, David Payne, Terence Millard and a number of others and they all had some great horses at different times,' Shea said.
'Ipi Tombe [winner of the Dubai Duty Free at the World Cup meeting in 2003] was probably the best. After she won three from three in Dubai in early 2003, she was rated the best filly in the world. But you never tire of riding good horses and the chance of riding one like Vengeance Of Rain is a real highlight.'
Shea has missed the past two meetings due to a careless-riding suspension and it's been an expensive one, losing the winning rides on Taiji Spirit last Sunday and Tiger Prawn at Happy Valley on Tuesday night.
'Tiger Prawn hurt because I won on him at his first run back this season and he'd done everything right going into that [Po Leung Kuk Centenary Cup] race,' he said.
'Not only has he won, he's run a course record.
'But looking back on that won't do me any good. The two suspensions I've picked up have put me a bit behind my goal of riding three winners per month. So now, I've just got to knuckle down, work harder, stay focused and hopefully we'll get the results.'