FORMER Australian champion jockey Blake Shinn is the man to provide plenty of pre-Christmas celebrations when he climbs aboard unpredictable but talented galloper VINCY in the competitive one mile three-furlong Marble Handicap (12.15pm) at Happy Valley today.
With victories in the Melbourne Cup, Golden Slipper and Doncaster Mile on his CV, plus a Sydney jockeys premiership medal to his name, it never ceases to amaze me why this world-class jockey doesn’t get more rides in Hong Kong.
Maybe his quiet personality doesn’t quite fit with the fiery, dog-eat-dog environment of racing in the territory, but there is no doubting his ability on the big occasion.
Notable successes aboard Excellent Proposal in the Hong Kong Classic Mile last season and on Sky Field in the recent Group One Hong Kong Sprint are proof enough of that.
Shinn teams up with trainer Dennis Yip, who finally broke a long losing sequence at Sha Tin last Saturday on the son of Elzaam, and now looks ready to produce his best form.
Races over this middle distance at the Valley can cause headaches for form students with no rhyme or reason as to what speed they will go from the off, while regular mid-race moves from horses at the tail of the field can also turn these contests into four-furlong sprints.
Vincy however, has a great record over the course and distance having finished in the frame in all five attempts, including a success back in April.
Since then he has gradually dropped to an attractive mark but he has still produced some encouraging efforts, notably when a strong finishing fifth over 10 furlongs at Sha Tin and when fourth over this course and distance in October.
Now racing off a three-pound lower mark than for his last win, and with Shinn regularly partnering the seven-year-old in recent track-work, the signs suggest Vincy has been primed for this contest.
Later on the card, the Class Two Fort Handicap (2.15pm) could be aptly named “blink and you will miss it”, with some of the fastest course specialists competing over five furlongs.
With eight of the contenders having won 28 sprint races at the Valley between them – only Voyage Warrior, Drops Of God and Valliant Dream have never won at the city-track – you can guarantee the pace will be lightning quick.
With outside draws being unkind to prolific track winners Grateful Heart and Handsome Bo Bo, it’s worth taking a chance on speedy KEEP YOU WARM, who is capable of extending his unbeaten course and distance record to three.
This highly-progressive four-year-old, who placed behind champion sprinters Fantastic Way and Courier Wonder last season, won without coming off the bridle on his seasonal run over five furlongs in October, and then subsequently only ran out of petrol close home when stepped up to six furlongs behind the smart Scores Of Fun last month.
He looks physically and mentally stronger this season and is more than capable of climbing further the handicap ladder.
Vincy 12.15pm Happy Valley
Keep You Warm 2.15pm Happy Valley