Alexis Badel claims his 2nd win of the night on the Danny Shum-trained Winning Faith
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
French jockey Alexis Badel doubled his haul for his current Hong Kong stint with two winners at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (13 December), including the first section of the Class 3 Hydrangea Handicap (1650m) aboard Winning Faith for his biggest supporter Danny Shum.
Seven of Badel’s 11 career wins in Hong Kong have come for Shum, who also had a double of his own when G-One Lover took the last, the Class 3 Roselle Handicap (1200m), under Zac Purton.
“It is great to ride a winner for Danny,” Badel said. “Actually, Danny and Tony Millard have been two supporters of mine so to ride a winner for both means a lot.”
Winning Faith, by sprinter Star Witness out of 1800m stakes winner My Central, had been tried over 1200m for most of his Hong Kong career. For Shum, though, the right distance for the four-year-old — a winner in Australia when named Biased Witness — proved something of a puzzle.
“I thought he was just a sprinter, but a lot of jockeys were telling me that I should try him at the Sha Tin 1400m,” Shum said. “I thought, if he could handle the Sha Tin 1400m, then he should be able to handle 1650m at Happy Valley, so I decided to bring him here.
“I told his owner to come out here, he is in his nineties but I thought he had to be here,” Shum said of 97-year-old owner Chao Kuang Piu. “He has been one of my biggest supporters since I first got my licence 13 years ago so I’m very happy to win for him. He is still such a big lover of racing.”
Shum believes that Badel has what it takes to become a mainstay among Hong Kong’s jockey ranks, but that the 26-year-old still needs to take another step forward to reach that point.
“I like him, but he still has to learn a bit,” Shum said. “He’s good, but I am always telling him to be aggressive and to put horses into the race. This is the European style, though, and for a European he was already fast out of the gates. Actually, he has been pretty quick to pick it all up — it takes time to get used to Hong Kong pace, to know the horses and to know where to be in a race.
“Remember, even Michael Kinane came and took time, so too Kieren Fallon, he needed time. For a European jockey, Alexis is a fast learner. He’s young and open-minded, he listens to what people say, and I think if he continues to learn, he can be very good here in Hong Kong.”
Badel says that he is starting to learn about some of the vagaries of Hong Kong racing that he believes may allow him to make the city a permanent base one day, should he choose.
“I’m just trying to stay focused,” he said. “What I am learning is that it is all about patience here. Sometimes, you will get on plenty of good horses at a meeting but they will all have bad draws. You need a bit of luck and thankfully I got that here. I am enjoying being here and hope to ride here for a while.”
Earlier, Badel took the Class 4 Bellflower Handicap (1200m) aboard Millard’s Bold Stitch, who was first-up since June. Once again, it was a case of a long-standing owner being rewarded.
“Mr Lau is a Voting Member and he’s been with me for 18 years,” Millard said. “One of the first horses in my yard was for him, so I’m very happy to be able to repay him with a win tonight.
“The horse was coming off a bleed, but he had been working well and I was confident he would run a good race. I think he can progress from here.”
Joao Moreira also joined the double club, winning the Class 5 Aster Handicap (1650m) on runaway winner Glory Star for Frankie Lor before adding the second section of the Class 3 Hydrangea Handicap (1650m) on Tony Cruz’s Mister Monte.
For Nash Rawiller, who brought up his most prominent Hong Kong success in Sunday’s (10 December) G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), he was able to continue his good recent form when producing a tidy ground-saving ride aboard Me Tsui-trained Enormous Honour to win the Class 4 Hibiscus Handicap (1650m).
“He’s a good rider, isn’t he?” Tsui mused post-race, saying that Enormous Honour — a half-brother to G1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) winner Triple Honour — was suspect at a mile unless everything went right. “I’ve always thought he needed everything to go right for him to win at this trip, but Nash saved ground and didn’t ask him for too much too soon. Perfect from him.”
It was a case of full-circle for Enormous Honour, who was scoring just his second win from 41 Hong Kong starts and his fifth success overall. The Australian import was ridden by Rawiller to win twice at Canterbury in Sydney in mid-2014.
The night’s trophy race, the Class 4 Hong Kong Golf Club Centenary Cup Handicap (1800m), was won by Dennis Yip’s Crown Avenue, ridden by Umberto Rispoli, while apprentice Matthew Poon scored his first win since late October when guiding Francis Lui-trained Golden Glory to victory in the Class 5 Dandelion Handicap (1200m).
Racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (17 December).