Blake Shinn went from the doghouse to the penthouse in the space of 30 minutes at Happy Valley on Wednesday night as he sent resurgent trainer David Hayes on a roller coaster of emotions.
Hayes was left unimpressed with Shinn’s ride on his well-fancied debutant Shenron early in the night, but that was nothing but a distant memory by the next race after the Australian jockey delivered a masterful front-running effort from a tricky barrier 12 aboard Showina.
The three-year-old is one of a number of young horses in his stable and the trainer can feel the wheels finally starting to turn after a slow start to his much-hyped return to Hong Kong racing.
“I think Blake showed great initiative in this race and I thought he lacked initiative in the first one,” Hayes laughed in reference to Shenron’s eighth placing.
“I thought they went too slow and he got too far back and started pulling. [Showina] is a decent horse, but if you ask me the horse in the race before [Shenron] is a much better horse.”
After getting back and running on in his previous two starts, Hayes said they elected to roll the dice with the Showina on Wednesday night in what proved to be a winning move.
“I just thought, he’s had two starts now, he has blinkers on so let’s make our own luck and grab the race by the scruff of the neck – it worked,” he said. “When you use those tactics, it is sink or swim.
“Joao [Moreira] handed up to him and he got it nice, when he was leading like that he was always going to be hard to beat.”
Showina is not for catching! 🐎💨 @blake_shinn drives out his 16th win this term, scoring aboard the David Hayes-trained youngster in tonight's fourth event. @lindsayparkrace #HKracing pic.twitter.com/p5XgJiwZPQ— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 14, 2021
It marked Hayes’ 18th win of the term and fourth winner in as many meetings while Shinn notched up his 16th, already eclipsing his total from last season.
Also on the night, champion jockey Zac Purton continued his red-hot form by grabbing a three-timer aboard Charity Fun, Young Legend and Spontaneous.
After giving up a huge start in the jockeys’ premiership, Purton has narrowed the gap on key rival Moreira to 17 with 25 meetings remaining in the season.
Charity Fun continued his impressive start to his Hong Kong career, grabbing his third win in five starts in the Class Two Cedar Handicap (1,800m) to mark himself as a progressive middle-distance campaigner.
Purton continued his strong association with affable trainer Paul O’Sullivan when they went back-to-back with Spontaneous, with the horse chalking up his third win in four starts after an 11-month lay-off due to a tendon injury.
The five-year-old struggled to show much last season, before going amiss halfway through the term. Returning in February this year, the son of Unencumbered has been a revelation.
“His first four runs I gave him at Sha Tin, he was disappointing. He ran like a horse that wasn’t really interested,” O’Sullivan said.
“Then he bowed his tendon and had a long time out so we came to Happy Valley, the track is a little bit easier here.”
Spontaneous is destined for Class Three after winning on a mark of 60, a task that does not daunt the Kiwi handler.
“I think he’ll cut it when he gets to Class Three, I’m not fearful of the rise in class,” he said. “I am with 99 out of 100 of them but I think this horse is a little bit progressive.”
Meanwhile, battling jockey Alex Lai Hoi-wing snared his third winner of the season, booting home Me Tsui Yu-sak’s Enjoyable Success in the Class Five Walnut Handicap (1,800m).