With his time in Hong Kong set to come to a premature end, Blake Shinn makes his final appearance at Sha Tin on Friday.
After being forced to miss the last three meetings of the season because of a careless riding ban, Shinn’s last mounts will come at Happy Valley on Wednesday but the best memories of his time in the city were made at Sha Tin.
With the best record of any jockey in Group Ones this season after three victories at the highest level, Shinn was thrilled to pick up the Hong Kong Sprint with Sky Field in December but it’s Russian Emperor’s Gold Cup win in February that he nominates as his best moment of his three years in the city.
“The highlight was definitely the Hong Kong Gold Cup,” Shinn said. “We went in as the underdog against the champion Golden Sixty and to come out on top was a feeling of enormous satisfaction.”
It was Shinn’s steer on Russian Emperor that will live long in the memory of those who watched, with his patient ride rewarded when Douglas Whyte’s star came from a long way last to sprint clear of his rivals to win by four and a quarter lengths.
“I have to thank Douglas Whyte,” Shinn said. “He had faith in my plan and was happy to trust me in what I believed was right.
“When there is so much at stake and I can look back and watch and think that I absolutely got that one right, that is what I’m striving for every time.”
Shinn has a wonderful big-race record with multiple Group One wins in two different countries, including the 2008 Melbourne Cup aboard Viewed, but he feels Hong Kong racing offers the biggest challenge to a jockey of anywhere in the world.
“Before I came to Hong Kong, I believed it was the pinnacle and I still do,” Shinn said. “It really is the best of the best and to be leaving this season as the leading Group One rider is something I’m very proud of.”
Shinn’s winners have continued to increase the longer he has ridden in Hong Kong, with his 37 successes this campaign dwarfing last season’s total of 24.
A lot of that can be put down to his relationships with some of Hong Kong’s top trainers, with David Hayes and Caspar Fownes providing more than a third of his winning rides, and Shinn is thankful for their support.
“They are wonderful trainers and wonderful people,” Shinn said. “Their loyalty has been something I can’t show enough appreciation for.”
🏆The Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (G1)— 𝙒𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙𝙍𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙜 (@WorldRacing1) May 22, 2022
2400m, 12.000.000 HKD, for 4yo+
Russian Emperor (IRE)
(5G Galileo - Atlantic Jewel, by Fastnet Rock)
J : B. Shinn
T :D.J. Whyte
O : Mike Cheung Shun Ching
B :@coolmorestud , Lauri Macri & Partners pic.twitter.com/gW6LXF9dY9
After a bumpy month that also saw Shinn catch Covid-19 and receive a hefty fine for breaching Jockey Club protocols, the Australian is keen to go out on a high and he has plenty of chances to make a final trip to the Sha Tin winner’s enclosure.
Among the 34-year-old’s six rides are Star Brite, who runs in the Class Three Better Future Handicap (1,200m), and S J Tourbillon, who could be competitive in a change of headgear for the Class Three Sportsmanship Handicap (1,600m).
But it’s Amazing Innovator in the Class Four Riding High Together Handicap (1,200m) that Shinn feels could be his best chance.
“My rides appear decent enough,” Shinn said. “I’m always hopeful of a winner and Amazing Innovator is a young horse who I believe has a bright future.”
As Shinn enters his final week in Hong Kong, he is naturally looking forward to a return home but he will miss some things after his departure.
“The excitement of Hong Kong racing will definitely be missed and of course the relationships I’ve formed,” he said.