Antoine Hamelin has made a fine start to his Hong Kong career since emerging from quarantine five weeks ago and the Frenchman is showing no signs of slowing as one of only three jockeys with a full book of nine rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday (13 May).
With nine wins to his name from nine race meetings, Hamelin is shooting at a solid 11% strike rate and included in his haul are two doubles, making for a good start to life in Hong Kong.
“It’s a busy day again, I’m feeling good – I’m very happy to get a lot of support and every day of racing I have good rides and good chances to win,” Hamelin said.
Hong Kong racing is a challenging cauldron, tough and competitive, with jockeys jostling for a limited number of mounts at two race meetings per week, but French riders have a long history of success in the city and he, like Tony Piccone and Alexis Badel already this season, is doing his part to continue that trend.
“I just need to do my best and get a little bit lucky but for me, here, I have support, I’ve had a few winners – life’s good,” Hamelin said.
Marcel Samarcq in the pre-professional days, and then the likes of Philippe Paquet, Maurice Philipperon, Eric Saint-Martin, Eric Legrix and Gerald Mosse, who racked up 659 Hong Kong wins, as well as the flamboyant Olivier Doleuze who bagged 571 wins across 17 seasons, are among those who have set a firm foundation, as well as a high benchmark, to the latest crop of French riders attempting to gain a foothold in Hong Kong.
There is also Maxime Guyon who famously partnered Ambitious Dragon to BMW Hong Kong Derby glory in 2011 and is one of five French jockeys in the professional era to have won the HK$20 million Classic.
Hamelin still has time to hit those heights but in the meantime he goes into Wednesday’s card with a host of chances, highlighted by three key opportunities from the David Ferraris stable including the consistent Blastoise in the Class 3 Ma Kong Shan Handicap (1800m).
“I have three rides for Mr. Ferraris and they’re all drawn very well so we have a good chance to get a few in the first three,” Hamelin said.
The Ambidexter gelding has turned into a model of consistency this term with seven top three finishes from 10 starts, including two wins.
“He feels good, he just needs a good race and a bit of cover – I like him, I think he has a good chance,” Hamelin said.
Hamelin and Ferraris will also team up in the second race, the Class 4 Pottinger Peak Handicap (1650m) with last start winner Electric Lightning as well as Surrealism who contests the Class 3 D’Aguilar Peak Handicap (1650m).
Outside of racing Hamelin is a passionate rock climber, a sport he feels plays a role in his success on the track both mentally and physically.
“Rock climbing is very nice for me, it’s good for me mentally and my strength, I love the sport, we go to different places in Hong Kong and we’ll continue trying to discover new places,” Hamelin said.
Champion jockey race is unrelenting
Joao Moreira fired back at Zac Purton with a treble on Saturday (9 May) at Sha Tin to trail the Australian by one in the race for the jockeys’ championship and on Wednesday the pair will lock horns once again.
Moreira has a full book of rides compared to Purton’s six. Included among the Brazilian’s engagements is the John Moore-trained Above who contests the Class 3 Ma Kong Shan Handicap (1800m).
“He’s run very good races before over the distance, and if he’s capable of running 2000 metres then there isn’t an issue over 1800 metres,” Moreira said.
“The way he won two starts ago, even if he continues to go up in class you would think that he would be very competitive,” he added.
Meanwhile, Purton has six chances to extend his lead, highlighted by the Caspar Fownes-trained Tangmere in the finale, the Class 3 D’Aguilar Peak Handicap (1650m).
“He was really well-suited by the race last time, they went hard early and it was a wet track, everything fell into place for him and it was nice to see him do it in a good fashion but up in grade, on a firmer track it’s not going to be easy for him,” Purton said.