Francis Lui Kin-wai is chasing his second BMW Hong Kong Derby victory in three seasons and the man he has enlisted to help him make it happen feels that the veteran trainer “probably owes me one”.
Blake Shinn will ride The Irishman for Lui in Sunday’s showcase, two years after he went within a neck of pinching a Derby victory from Golden Sixty aboard $290 chance Playa Del Puente after a daring mid-race move.
Shinn followed up that effort with a fourth in the race last year aboard Excellent Proposal and heads to Sha Tin on Sunday with no doubt in his mind that he’s got the horse to deliver him victory in the prestigious four-year-old race.
“I firmly believe I’ve got the horse to win the race, he’s absolutely peaking for the day,” Shinn said of The Irishman, who finished third in the Classic Mile and sixth in the Classic Cup.
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Shinn partnered the Caspar Fownes-trained Rocket Spade in the first two legs of the Classic Series but looks to have upgraded his mount after Lui opted for him ahead of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who was aboard Golden Sixty on that day two years ago.
“It’s nice to be teaming up with Francis, he’s a hell of a nice guy. We’ve sat in the tower on many an occasion there at Sha Tin and I’ve picked his brain and we get along really well,” Shinn said
“If I can win this Derby for him and [owner Edmond Lee Man-bun] it would be an absolute dream come true. Part of the reason I’m in Hong Kong is to win a Hong Kong Derby and if I could take it home I would be absolutely stoked.”
Rated 92, The Irishman is shooting to achieve the rare feat of winning the Derby off a mark south of 100 and will have to do it from gate 13.
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“Unfortunately the barrier gods weren’t in our favour but they’re the cards that we’re dealt and we’re just going to have to play them on the weekend,” Shinn said.
“It’s going to be a tactical race, it’s going to be a thinking race for every jockey and it’s not simple, but that’s what we’re employed to do.”
Shinn will take The Irishman back from the wide barrier and after partnering the gelding – who finished second at Group Two level in Australia pre-import – on numerous occasions at trackwork in the past couple of weeks, he is confident he has a handle on what will be required to get the best out of him.
“I think it’s been pivotal to get the opportunity to ride this horse every day and get an understanding of him,” Shinn said.
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“He’s not a simple horse but having a ride in such a massive race as a Derby, to leave no stone unturned and build that understanding of each other was important.
“The good thing about our horse is that I don’t believe we’re going to have to change his pattern too much, we’ll just ride him as he’s been racing and the pace of the race – if it’s ran how it looks on paper – might just play into our hands.
“I believe we’re going in there in as good a shape as we can. He’s a very impressive horse, he’s got a big engine, a great stride and I think he’s going to run his race and hopefully things pan out for him.”