He’s yet to quite reach the heights of last season’s short-term stint but Alexis Badel is already reaping the rewards of being a full-time Hong Kong rider as he prepares to compete in his first International Jockeys’ Championship.

After reeling off 26 winners at a strike rate of 10 per cent during a four-month stay last term, Badel has built into 2020-21 and will enter the Happy Valley showpiece in full form after already landing six victories in November.

“It’s a big challenge and it’s a great opportunity – I’m looking forward to being part of it,” Badel said.

Alexis Badel wins aboard Virtus Star last month.

The Covid-19-induced difficulties of attracting international riders has opened up an additional two spots for Hong Kong-based jockeys for the event on December 9, with the Jockey Club opting for a six-six split rather than the traditional four locals and eight overseas stars.

Alexis Badel primed for first full Hong Kong season: ‘it was only a matter of time’

Badel’s 15 victories assure him the fifth slot behind Joao Moreira, Zac Purton, Karis Teetan and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, with Neil Callan, Vagner Borges and Chad Schofield to fight it out for the final spot.

“It’s a fantastic surprise, I couldn’t believe it when I realised it was a possibility for me to be in. I’m very keen on it,” the Frenchman said.

Badel has a host of chances to continue his strong form at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, hopping aboard last-start winners Explosive Witness, Heavenly Thought and Virtus Star.

Badel picks up the ride aboard Explosive Witness in the absence of the suspended Karis Teetan, with the Caspar Fownes-trained six-year-old shooting for three wins in a row in the Class Two Chai Wan Kok Handicap (1,000m).

The son of Star Witness has drawn the outside alley in the 11-horse race and will have to overcome quality sprinters Hong Kong Win and Classic Unicorn.

“He’s a nice horse. The draw is not ideal but it seems to me that he finishes very strongly no matter what gate he has, so let’s see if he can repeat,” Badel said.

Virtus Star is also chasing three victories on the bounce but at the other end of the scale in Class Five, with the five-year-old flicking the switch after falling to a rating of 20 after 21 runs without a win.

The Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained galloper strung together consecutive seconds to start the season before going on his winning run and will still only carry 124 pounds in the Yau Kom Tau Handicap (1,650m).

Neil Callan chasing a return to the IJC, 12 years after his first appearance

“The horse is in great form and he has done a great job this season. I still think he’s competitive and he should run a great race,” said Badel, who has been aboard Virtus Star for his past three runs.

“I think he’s the type of horse who likes to be given a chance in the early stages so I try not to be too aggressive on him, work on his balance and after that he can give a good finish.

“I think [he can win again]. With a little bit of luck, a smooth race and a clear straight, he should stretch properly and he should do well.”

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