Young Nick has the Hall-mark of a champion
For young jockey Nicholas Hall the Cathay Pacific International meeting is more than just a chance to compete overseas at a world-class event.
The 22-year-old Australian rider - son of top jockey Greg Hall - spent a number of years living in Hong Kong as a child while his father rode successfully in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
But while he may not remember that early period of his life, something about his return to Sha Tin as a Group One-winning jockey feels right.
Not that he could have told you that then, or in fact, even five years ago.
'I had never touched a horse until I was 17,' Hall said after guiding Australian sprint sensation All Silent through his gallop at Sha Tin trackwork yesterday. 'I started riding in races when I was 18 and haven't looked back since.'
Hall says that while he loved sport, he had never had the desire to follow his father into racing until his late teenage years.
'I was living at boarding school and I loved sport,' Hall said. 'But then the rest of the boys started getting bigger than me, so I was getting out-muscled in most contact sports.
'I wanted to compete, and riding seemed the obvious choice given Dad's background and my build.'
And compete he has. Hall was crowned champion Melbourne apprentice and now sits second on the Victorian jockeys' ladder.
But more importantly, he chalked up his first Group One win aboard Melbourne Cup winner Efficient in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington last month, before adding another just a week later on All Silent in the Patinack Farm Classic.
'All Silent is the most explosive horse I have ridden,' Hall said. 'I am not bothered about the other Australian sprinters, because I believe he has them covered.
'It is a little harder to line up the form for the international horses, but I think this horse will be very hard to beat.'
Hall points to All Silent's sizzling acceleration as the reason for his ability to win on the world stage.
'I think it is a misconception that horses which race off the speed like he does, will flash home at the end in a fast-run race,' Hall said. 'But if All Silent travels comfortably and is close enough in the straight, then he has the acceleration to beat them.'
Hall will spend the next few days taking in the sights of Hong Kong with his girlfriend, between sessions of video and form study ahead of Sunday's HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint.
As for his opinion of the horse's trackwork yesterday morning, Hall had only one, typically laconic line to sum up how All Silent has progressed since his last start win - 'He's cherry ripe, mate.'