Jockey Alexis Badel returns to the scene of his greatest Hong Kong triumph at Happy Valley on Wednesday night with mixed emotions.
The Frenchman won last season’s Group Three January Cup (1,800m) on Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Simply Brilliant before suffering a nasty fall after the winning post.
While Badel is looking to replicate the victory on the same horse again this time around, he is hoping to do it without the fall which left him with a broken wrist and a damaged hip.
Remarkably, Badel defied the odds to return to riding from the broken wrist in just two weeks, despite doctors warning he was looking at two months on the sidelines.
“When I went to see the doctor in Central, he said I would be able to ride in March, so I said I may as well fly back [to France] tomorrow,” he said.
“He then said come back in two weeks and we will see after we cut the cast off.
“He was surprised because it wasn’t too sensitive, I wasn’t able to trial the horses two days after he took it off but it was OK to race on the Sunday.”
Badel remembers still having to go through the trophy presentation after the race, despite being in obvious discomfort.
“It was pretty painful … I was white, I had the sore hip and I knew something was wrong with my wrist at the time,” he said.
“Then the stewards, they called me in and gave me a two-day suspension and a HK$25,000 fine.”
High drama in the G3 January Cup: Simply Brilliant swoops to conquer under a dashing ride from @AlexisBadel only to dislodge his rider just after the line. Happily, the Frenchman walks away unaided. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/fC4hlfJlUs— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 9, 2019
Badel then suffered an even worse fall in Europe at Lion d’Angers racecourse in August which has left him with a permanent metal plate to hold his cheek bone together.
While the two falls in close succession may be enough to put some off their game, Badel said he has not given himself any opportunities to second-guess his ability in the saddle.
“Of course you think about it a little bit but you just go forward,” he said. “I don’t have any doubts and I don’t give myself the opportunity to have any doubt.”
The victory 12 months ago was Simply Brilliant’s last win and Badel is hoping the six-year-old will be able to recapture some of his old form again.
After being Group One-placed in April, Lor’s gelding has struggled to show his best, but a trip to Happy Valley could bring out the best in him.
“The horse won last season so we already know that Happy Valley and this trip can suit him very well,” he said.
“Based on his last run, it was only so-so but before that in the Group Two, he ran a good race, he relaxed and was happy with the pace and hit the line good.
“Last time, we went slow, he didn’t relax, he didn’t breathe and I was three-deep with no cover.
“Things didn’t go well for me because the field didn’t stretch, so I was not able to cross or even be one off the fence.
“I was outside with a slow pace and it was impossible to lead because he never leads easily, I had no options, it is a race to forget.”
While he won the race last year carrying 114 pounds, Simply Brilliant will carry 120 pounds this time around while the Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend carries the top weight of 133 pounds.