Douglas Whyte paid Blake Shinn the ultimate compliment after the Australian closed a spectacular December with victory aboard Will Power in the Class 1 Fo Tan Handicap (1650m) at Sha Tin’s eight-race all-dirt meeting on Wednesday night (29 December).
Revered as the most successful rider in Hong Kong history with 13 jockeys’ championships and a record 1,813 victories, Whyte said Shinn was “making the difference” in races after the pair successfully combined for the second time this week after Carroll Street’s triumph on Monday (27 December).
Shinn slotted a treble with three contrasting rides, but his display on Will Power in the night’s feature had Whyte singing the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey’s praises.
“He (Shinn) never went around a horse, maybe one horse, he hugged the rails and let them all go crazy. Blake is riding with absolute confidence and it’s just beautiful to watch – he’s making the difference at the moment,” Whyte said.
“It’s a real pity that he can’t ride lighter because if he could, he would have a lot more opportunities.”
Describing Will Power as one of his stable’s “best horses”, Whyte said Shinn’s decision to allow the dirt course specialist to settle a conspicuous – and well out of the battle for the lead – last was decisive.
Revealing he had considered starting the Power gelding in the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (1 January), Whyte opted for tonight’s contest in the belief the combination of the dirt and an unflustered Shinn ride would prove decisive.
“He’s a horse that’s in a very vulnerable area with his rating (103), so there are not many options. It was either run him in Bauhinia Sprint, which I don’t think would have been his best chance, or step him up to 1650 (metres) and ride him quietly, which is what happened tonight,” Whyte said.
“I think I made the right decision but, again, I said this on Monday (about Carroll Street) – the horse was vulnerable but it was the ride, the ride won the race.”
Will Power’s seven Hong Kong victories have all come on Sha Tin’s dirt surface, with six of them at 1200m. The six-year-old underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in June, resuming with a creditable seventh over 1200m on 5 December.
“He’s been one of the best horses for me since I started my career and it’s just a pity with the restrictions at the moment, because I would love to travel with him to hit these dirt races overseas,” Whyte said.
Shinn snared his first Hong Kong major at the 2021 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races with victory on Sky Field in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and is riding with obvious self-assurance.
“In this place, you’re only as good as the cattle you get on and in the last few weeks, I’ve had some nice opportunities,” Shinn, 34, said. “The horses have just stepped up and things have gone my way.
“Things are going good. The trainers are starting to recognise it and the support I’ve had from David Hayes has been instrumental. Through his support, other trainers are cottoning on and it’s like a snowball effect – hopefully it keeps rolling on.
“The horse (Will Power) had come on from his last run, he was presented beautifully tonight by Douglas and he’s arguably the best dirt horse in Hong Kong and it was great to get the win on him tonight.”
Proving he is equally adept on a leader, Shinn sealed a race-to-race double when he expertly rated John Size’s Amazing Teens to victory in the Class 4 Siu Lek Yuen Handicap (1800m).
He secured his third triumph on the card – and 13th of the campaign – when he drove All Joyful through a narrow gap after angling off the rails to win the Class 4 Shing Mun River Channel Handicap (1650m), boosting trainer Benno Yung’s tally for the season to 15 wins.
Yung teamed with Brazilian Ruan Maia to land the Class 5 Tin Sam Handicap (1650m) with Run Des Run, whose scored his first win at his 12th attempt. Opting to allow the massively-built gelding to sit wide without cover from gate 14, Maia’s confidence proved decisive.
Frankie Lor retained leadership of the trainers’ championship after Harry Bentley piloted Everyone’s Victory to victory in the Class 4 Sha Tin Wai Handicap (1200m).
Bentley posted his first Hong Kong brace when Turin Redstar claimed the Class 3 Sha Tin Hoi Handicap (1650m) for Whyte.
“First double, which is fantastic to get and big thanks to the two trainers who have really supported me since I have been here, with Frankie Lor and Douglas Whyte,” the Englishman said. “Great to repay their faith in me.
“This horse has done me well, I’ve won on him twice now and when things go clear for him, he gets a proper gallop and sticks his head out.”
Lor has 31 wins for the season at the top of the standings, while John Size narrowed the deficit to one with a double capped with Elon’s triumph in the finale – the Class 3 Pai Tau Handicap (1200m) – under Vagner Borges.
Caspar Fownes’ persistence with E Honey in the face of uninspiring form was rewarded off when the Nostradamus gelding won the Class 5 Tai Wai Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Poon at +4700.