Alexis Badel is not sure exactly where he’ll slot into the hierarchy of jockeys in his first full season in Hong Kong but the Frenchman says as long as he can “head home after the races with no excuses”, he’ll be a happy man.
Badel is no stranger to Sha Tin after cameos in the past four seasons and he returns full of confidence after landing 26 winners during his four-month stint last term to finish 10th in the jockeys’ premiership.
Even more impressive is the fact his haul came at a strike rate of 10 per cent, putting him behind only Zac Purton, Joao Moreira, Karis Teetan, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and Grant van Niekerk.
“What I’m really focused on is making sure I keep improving and am giving my horses every chance so I can head home after the races with no excuses,” Badel said. “I want to make people satisfied so they trust me and give me support. Success will follow.”
Badel, who finished his two weeks of quarantine at Beas River on August 25, says it was only ever a matter of when, not if, he would tackle a full Hong Kong season.
“I have missed Hong Kong racing and I’m very happy to be here for the whole season,” he said. “It’s a different challenge, usually I come here during the winter but this season I start from the beginning and it’s very exciting.
“I’ve always had this in my head, whenever people have asked me if I would like to stay for a full season I have always answered ‘yes’. It was only a matter of time and I feel like this season came at the right time.”
Racing in Europe has faced an interrupted 2020 due to Covid-19 and prize money has been slashed, but Badel says the pandemic is not why he decided to make the permanent shift to Sha Tin.
“I wouldn’t say it is the reason but I had to make a decision so it probably played a part,” said the jockey, who last rode in France on August 9 before jetting out for Hong Kong.
Badel spent much of his two weeks in lockdown reading and exercising, rotating between the treadmill, yoga mat and exercise bike.
“It was a little bit tough at the beginning but after four or five days I found a good rhythm and I had plenty of options to kill the time,” he said.
The affable Frenchman will be joined by his wife Eva and 10-month-old daughter Rebecca on September 10, meaning he is juggling his riding and form study with a touch of homemaking.
“It gives me a bit of time to settle in and organise the apartment so when they come over everything is ready for them,” he said.
Badel could have as many as seven rides for Sunday’s season opener at Sha Tin and he teams up with the aptly named Perfect Match in the day’s feature, the Class One HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1,200m).
The pair have combined twice for two wins and Badel is hopeful they can maintain their unblemished record, even if the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Perfect Match’s last six victories have come at seven furlongs.
“I think 1,400m is his best trip but the horse looks in pretty good shape and he is doing very well. He’s a really straightforward horse and he always gives you his best so no doubt he will run for me,” Badel said.
Another horse Badel is looking forward to reuniting with on Sunday is Douglas Whyte’s Super Wealthy, who he won aboard with the final ride of his 2019-20 stint.
“I have been trialling Super Wealthy, who is a very important horse for me – he gave me many successes last season and he’s a beautiful young horse. I’m very keen to see him back on the track,” he said.
Badel piloted Super Wealthy to three victories from four attempts and nine of his 26 winners last season came for Whyte.
“He gave me good support last season, we had a good partnership and I’ll be trying my best to maintain this connection,” Badel said.
“It’s also very important in Hong Kong to have success for different trainers so I’ll try my best to maintain the good connections that I have and also build new ones.”