Antoine Hamelin’s incredible effort to ride five winners at Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting puts him in elite company.
The likeable Frenchman is just the 13th jockey to achieve the feat in the professional era of Hong Kong racing.
Hamelin joins Glynn Pretty, Peter Miers, Gary Moore, Basil Marcus, Eric Legrix, Robbie Fradd, Christophe Soumillon, Douglas Whyte, Brett Prebble, Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan on the honour roll.
The thing that makes Hamelin’s performance so special was the degree of difficulty – every one of the five winners started at double-figure odds. Remarkable.
After a sluggish start to the season with eight winners from the first 37 meetings, the haul provides him with a much-needed shot in the arm.
Most of the 29-year-old’s colleagues were happy to see him enjoy his moment in the sun, Moreira even playfully squirting him with water as he spoke to the media afterwards.
Because riding five winners anywhere is special, but doing it Hong Kong – one of the toughest jurisdictions on the planet – takes it to another level.
It was terrific to see (on Instagram) Hamelin’s girlfriend Marion spray him with champagne when he arrived home. The joy was real.
It’s the sort of accomplishment that makes uprooting your whole life and relocating halfway around the world absolutely worth it.
And for those who have asked, yes, it was a very profitable day. Jockeys receive 10 per cent of the winner’s purse which means Hamelin’s five-win haul was worth HK$370,500.
No wonder he reaffirmed his commitment to Hong Kong as he basked in the glory: “I love the life, the city”.
Purton fined HK$10,000 for improper conduct
Overlooked in the aftermath of Hamelin’s achievement was a little note in the stewards’ report which revealed Purton was fined HK$10,000 for improper conduct after the sixth race.
The Australian was found guilty of “unnecessarily and forcefully [striking Everyone’s Delight] down the left shoulder on three occasions with his whip” after pulling up.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s gelding is obviously a frustrating horse – since winning on debut he’s been beaten four times in a row, including three times as an odds-on or even-money favourite – but Purton’s emotions clearly got the better of him in the moment.
Everyone’s Delight was one of three odds-on favourites the four-time champion rode on the day, along with Kings Shield and Wellington, but all went under.
Purton has now ridden 13 odds-on hopes this season – more than any other jockey in Hong Kong – but saluted on just four of them for a strike rate of 31 per cent.
In contrast, Moreira is eight from 11 (73 per cent) while Vincent Ho Chak-yiu is a perfect seven from seven, but they have come aboard the jurisdiction’s best horse in Golden Sixty and rising star Winning Dreamer.
Purton needs to turn that stat around if he’s going to chase down the Magic Man’s 21-win advantage in the race for the title.
Classic Series needs its own space
We’ve got a huge day of racing coming up at Sha Tin on Sunday with the Classic Mile, Stewards’ Cup and Centenary Sprint Cup but it feels a little overcrowded.
The same thing happens next month when two Group Ones – the Hong Kong Gold Cup and Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup – are on the same day as the Classic Cup.
It’s not always easy to find windows for marquee events in a busy calendar but the four-year-old series deserves to have its own time in the spotlight.
Group Ones will always command attention – there are only 12 of them a season in Hong Kong and they provide opportunities for the best horses to go head-to-head at weight-for-age conditions.
In contrast, the Classic Series is an artificial construct which is restricted to four-year-olds – they are effectively Class Twos – but the hook is the enormous amount of prize money on offer.
Fans need something to look forward to and in a jurisdiction where just 17 of the 88 meetings feature Group racing, there are too many blah days.
The Classic Mile and Classic Cup deserve their own slots in which they can shine.