If Blake Shinn’s recent four-timer provided him with his best feeling yet on a Hong Kong racetrack, his blossoming relationship with Sky Field gives the 34-year-old perhaps his greatest cause for optimism in his two and a bit years at Sha Tin.
Big-race rides have been few and far between for Shinn, let alone competitive ones, and joining forces with a top-liner throughout a campaign – like he did so often in Australia – merely a pipe dream.
But in Sky Field he hopes he has a galloper he can make his own, like big guns Zac Purton and Joao Moreira do time and time again.
“He’s an untapped talent, he’s lightly raced and I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of him. I believe we will this season and he feels like he’s the complete package now,” Shinn said.
Trainer Caspar Fownes likes how Sky Field responds to Shinn’s riding and the Australian went within a length and a half of snaring April’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize in his first ride aboard the five-year-old before following up with third in the Sha Tin Vase and victory in the Premier Cup, both Group Threes.
The pair joins forces again in Friday’s Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m) and Shinn hopes Sky Field, who carries 133 pounds, can lay down a marker for what is to come.
“It’s exciting to be partnering a horse like this and I can’t wait to see what he can do on Friday, but beyond that I’m looking forward to the Group Ones and hopefully being competitive in those,” said Shinn, adding that, while sprinting trips are the immediate focus, he can envisage a world where Sky Field steps up in distance and tackles superstar miler Golden Sixty.
Nearly three weeks on from that four-timer, Shinn is yet to add to his win tally but his strike rate of 17 per cent is still better than anyone outside championship leader Purton.
“I’ve only had 23 rides so it’s been a good start to the season and although I’ve gone a couple meetings without a winner, I feel like I’m holding my form,” said Shinn, who feels he can have an impact on the National Day card.
“It’s great to be going to the races with not only seven rides, but rides I hope are going to be in the money all day. If I have an element of luck I might be able to nail a couple of them.”
Lord Thunder was among Shinn’s four-timer and the David Hayes-trained four-year-old will look to remain unbeaten when switching to the turf for the Class Four Chengdu Handicap (1,200m), while the jockey has picked up the mount aboard Amigos Giggle in the Class Four Jinan Handicap (1,400m).
“Lord Thunder showed some good qualities to win at his first-up run. He was well-prepared to do that but he had to knuckle down and win the race, which is not easy to do first time on the dirt. He’s trained on beautifully since and he looks great,” Shinn said.
“Amigos Giggle is a very handy pickup, I’m rapt to be riding him. I galloped him during the week and he feels a nice progressive horse who’s going to certainly win in this class and I’m hoping it’s on Friday.
“He’s drawn a bit awkwardly in 14 but there’s not much pace in the race so hopefully he can overcome that by just rolling forward nicely and getting into a prominent position.”