Blake Shinn wasn’t quite sure how to feel after Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, with the star Australian doing everything but win the prestigious race after a magnificent ride aboard rank outsider Playa Del Puente.
Sent out at $290, Playa Del Puente was in front until the last breath before being pipped by red-hot favourite Golden Sixty, with the margin a neck.
“It feels like I’ve won, so many people have come up to me and congratulated me on the ride,” said Shinn after notching his 36th second for the season to go with only nine winners.
“The congratulations make me feel good but it’s frustrating in the sense that I’ve run another second.
“But to look on the bright side, if someone told me before the race we were going to run second and come so close I would have had to question them.”
With the pace dropping just past the halfway point in the vaunted 10-furlong test, Shinn decided it was time to act, taking Playa Del Puente from the back of the field to the front in the blink of an eye.
Golden Sixty snatches Hong Kong Derby in stunning finish to complete four-year-old series clean sweep
“The pace had really slackened at that point and I thought there was an opportunity for me to give my horse the best possible chance to win the race and that’s what I did,” he said.
“I was able to slide around the field without doing too much work. The horse had an uninterrupted run, he never broke his stride and we didn’t really have to increase the speed too much to go from last to first because the pace had backed off so much.”
Thank you everyone who have given me such encouraging comments regarding my 2nd in today’s Hong Kong Derby on Playa Del Puente. We really went for it and almost stole it. I’m very proud of my horse‘s efforts. Congratulations to winning connections of Derby champion Golden Sixty. https://t.co/fqcqe3ZbJY— Blake Shinn (@blake_shinn) March 22, 2020
While Shinn stopped himself short of admitting there was a fleeting moment when he thought he had pinched the race, he said he did start to get excited when Playa del Puente entered the straight full of running and holding a four-length lead on the field.
“I never think I’ve won before I get to the winning post but at the top of the straight when my horse changed [lead legs] and went into overdrive, I knew he was going to be hard to run down,” Shinn said. “It took a champion four-year-old to run me down.”
Playa Del Puente had never run 2,000m before Sunday’s race and his only Hong Kong win came over the extended Valley mile, but Shinn was prepared to back the Irish import’s stamina.
“The horse’s strengths are his staying ability, so he wasn’t going to win back in the field in a sit and sprint and that’s what the race was setting up to be,” he said. “It was just a matter of making that decision at that point of the race.”
Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.