Reinvigorated after a two-week break, Blake Shinn is optimistic Handsome Bo Bo can reprise a distant habit of building winning streaks with a strong performance in the Class 3 Cochrane Handicap (1000m) at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday 16 December).
The Australian-bred galloper made an immediate impact in Hong Kong in 2018, following a debut fourth with a hat-trick of victories over the 1200-metres course at Sha Tin.
But that form subsequently dried up until the now six-year-old returned to the winners’ stall under Shinn in a Class 3 contest over 1000m at the city circuit on 2 December.
Shinn, who resumes from suspension, is hopeful that breakthrough is more than a flash in the pan, conceding he was pleasantly taken by surprise two weeks ago.
“He was coming off the back off an injury first-up and he drew a wide barrier, so we had a few things against him,” the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey said.
“But he’s always possessed good ability. It was just a matter of him turning up on the day and getting a good run and we didn’t get obviously the best run but, around the turn, I was able to save some ground and get him into the clear and the horse performed really good on the day and it was a tremendous win.
“He travelled good throughout. I was wide but able to keep flowing forward and he was comfortable always throughout and when I cut the corner and got him into the clear, he always felt he wanted beat We The South.
“He had a good target to chase and he has a desire to win and hopefully he can reproduce that tonight.
“He feels great. He’s trained on really nicely and in that piece of work his action was good, his character was nice – all the things you look for going into a run, positive signs.”
Shinn, who has six wins for the season, will discuss tactics with trainer Danny Shum but expects Handsome Bo Bo to sit mid-field before launching late in the jockey’s return to the fray.
“It was good to have a little bit of down time. Recharge the batteries, maintain my fitness. Just did a few things to stimulate the brain and recharge to get back into business tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ve drawn a little bit awkward again with Handsome Bo Bo, we’ll need a touch of luck but I’ll talk to Danny (Shum) about how he wants to ride him and maybe similar to last time, just off the speed and be strong late. It could be a good recipe.”
Shinn has six mounts on the eight-race card, starting with Magnetism (130lb) in the Class 4 Shelley Handicap (1800m), where he will clash with Owners’ Star (132lb), the first of Antoine Hamelin’s full book.
“I like this horse and we finished fourth last time (behind Fast Pace), that’s very good form. I’m a little bit confident about him – he can run well,” Hamelin said.
“It’s probably easier in Class 4 for him (than Class 3, where he spent all but two of his 21 races in Hong Kong), I think the form is really good. Hopefully he can win.”
In the midst of his first full season in Hong Kong, Hamelin has logged seven wins for the season but has amassed a frustratingly large number of minor placings with nine seconds and 22 thirds as of 15 December.
“It’s a little bit more quiet than last season but it’s a little more difficult when you’re here for the whole season – everybody knows that,” he said.
“Not many winners but a lot of places for me. Not a bad season but just a bit more luck (needed) for winners.”
French compatriot Alexis Badel sits fifth in the jockeys’ championship with 21 wins behind Joao Moreira (51), Zac Purton (33), Karis Teetan (25) and Vincent Ho (25) and is hopeful he can add to his tally at Happy Valley.
His mounts include Smart Charade, who contests the Class 4 Graham Handicap (1200m).
“I thought it was a good run from him (when second to Sprint Forward at Happy Valley on 18 November).
“I wasn’t on board but I rode him the last two times at Sha Tin. He’s a horse that can finish and I thought it was a good run from him at Happy Valley and I expect him to do something similar.
“He jumped good from the gate, but he probably likes to come from midfield or a little bit further back. The pace in 1200m in Happy Valley will be suitable for him and hopefully he can finish off on this occasion.”
Badel respects the claims of Happy Profit, whom he has ridden in trackwork, in the Class 4 Graham Handicap.
“He’s a nice horse and I think he’s ready to race. He’s been doing well in the trial and he’s got good early speed so he might be a good chance on this occasion,” Badel said.
“I booked Smart Charade a long time ago, so I was committed and this nice, young new horse came a bit after.”
Badel completes his Happy Valley obligations aboard Harmony N Home in the Class 3
Elgin Handicap (1200m).
“In this race, we have drawn the outside (barrier 10), so it’s going to make it a bit more difficult for me.
“I think he’s still improving. He gained toughness, race after race. The last two times, he was good. He keeps fighting very hard. He’ll give to me everything. He’s in good form. He’s a great worker.”