HK a great reality check, says Soumillon as winter sojourn ends

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am

Brilliant Belgian rider Christophe Soumillon yesterday waved a fond farewell at the end of his annual winter sojourn, bowing out with a win - but it should have been two - and a suspension that nevertheless left him happy.

He ended his three-plus months at Sha Tin with 18 victories from 131 mounts after winning on Bouncer for Caspar Fownes in the second, but Jackpot Delight should have been the second in the final race.

'I would have liked to have left with a win in the last race but a horse in front of me moved and I couldn't get my gap - he should have won the race, but otherwise I am happy,' Soumillon said. 'I will be back to ride in the Derby on Win Practitioner for Caspar and on Joyful Winner for John Moore in the Queen's Silver Jubilee - I think I will probably be racing for third or fourth place but you never know. It's horse racing. As for the suspension - well, I really appreciated the way they suspended me.'

Which is not high on the list of things you expect to hear from jockeys, but Soumillon was talking about being allowed to trade days for dollars once he had informed the stewards of his riding commitments on return to France. Soumillon received a one-day ban and $80,000 fine rather than a longer stretch, enabling him to ride next Saturday.

'I like to come here every year and make myself better and make myself ready for the first day in France, so now I will be able to do that,' he said. 'This season in Hong Kong I had 18 winners, which was good. Not as good as two years ago but better than last year and I had some suspensions, I couldn't ride some horses because of the light weights but I was happy because I rode for a lot of trainers I had not ridden for in the past.

'It's all good experience for me here - you cannot always be on the top and have everything your way. It's good to have a slap in the face and some lessons to make you realise that, even if you are good, you have to work at things. I love to come back to Hong Kong every winter even if a full season cannot be on my schedule at the moment.'

Soumillon was seeing positives all around him and even said something upbeat about the miserable weather at yesterday's meeting.

'My wife Sophie said it was good we had bad weather today - if it was sunny it would be harder to go home but when it's like this, you are happy to leave,' he laughed.