The numbers say it was 480,742-1 chance but jockey Antoine Hamelin has defied the odds to record a career-best five victories in a stunning display at Sha Tin.
The likeable Frenchman was the toast of Hong Kong racing on Sunday evening after an incredible performance which saw him collect his first quintet – with each winner jumping at a double-figure price.
It started with Golden Link ($15.65) in the second race before things really picked up in the back-half of the card as Family Folks ($14.85), Ping Hai Bravo ($11.30), Hongkong Great ($16.95) and Tempest Express ($10.80) snared four of the last five events to ensure Hamelin went home with a giant smile on his face.
If someone had put a HK$10 all-up on the five horses, it would have returned a monster HK$4,807,426.99.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of occasion – Hamelin had never had more than a double in Hong Kong before this – and he was absolutely delighted.
“It’s a crazy day, I’m very happy,” Hamelin said. “My last winner was in December and it had been a little bit quiet for me in the past few weeks but that’s Hong Kong. Today, I’m jockey of the day, I’ve won five races – amazing.
“I thought I could have a winner but not five. Before the races I thought my best chances were Family Folks and Ping Hai Bravo but everything has gone perfectly, I’m so happy about it.”
The 29-year-old remembers riding four winners before – “in Fontainebleau about five or six years ago, I’m not sure exactly when but it was a long time ago” – but five is definitely unchartered territory.
It has also come at a terrific time for Hamelin, who burst onto the Hong Kong scene late last season with 17 winners in three months but has found things a little bit tougher this term.
He came into the meeting with eight winners to his name, however the most recent one was on December 16 and his run of outs had reached 50 rides.
When Jockey Challenge betting opened on Saturday afternoon, Hamelin was rated a $55 shot with six other riders ahead of him in the market, including Zac Purton at $1.85, Karis Teetan at $3.50 and Joao Moreira at $4.
But he just needed a little bit of luck to turn it around and, as they say in the classics, when it rains it pours and it certainly did that on Sunday.
“Last season was very good for me and the beginning of this season has been more quiet but I just never give up, I stay focused and stay strong in the head,” said Hamelin. “We just have to keep going, Hong Kong is a tough place – everybody knows that.
“Hopefully this is a reminder to everyone what I can do and I can get some more opportunities.”
A strong rider, Hamelin has rightly earned plaudits for his determination in a finish – something that was on display most notably with Family Folks – and the haul should ensure he is front of mind for owners and trainers again.
After making the full-time commitment to Hong Kong last year, he is relishing his decision to call the city home.
“I’m happy in Hong Kong, everything is OK for me, I love the life, the city,” Hamelin said. “I have a lot of time for my favourite hobby – rock climbing – and a lot of places for that as well. I just have to keep going, just keep working hard and going strong.”