By Jon Lees
Hong Kong: Christophe Soumillon says he is feeling good again after catching Covid-19 and is looking forward to the Longines Hong Kong International Races where he will seek back-to-back success on Japan’s Admire Mars.
The Belgian is halfway through two weeks’ mandatory quarantine in order to ride at the Longines-backed fixture a week on Sunday having already self-isolated in the United States, where a positive coronavirus test cost him two winners at the Breeders’ Cup.
Soumillon, 39, will not have completed his own lockdown in time for Wednesday’s International Jockeys’ Championship but will be out to ride at Sha Tin where he will be involved in all four G1 races.
“The most important thing for me always was to ride on the international day at Sha Tin, the IJC is a nice event but it was only going to be a bonus,” he said, speaking to the South China Morning Post.
Soumillon has not ridden since mid-October in France after which he flew to Keeneland where he was to ride the Aga Khan’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Order Of Australia in the MIle, who both went on to triumph in Kentucky under Colin Keane and Pierre-Charles Boudot.
The jockey said: “To be honest I didn’t have any problem seeing her win, I knew my filly was going to win the Turf, I was very positive with that.
“I rode her in trackwork the day it was announced I was positive, I knew she was well. It was a strange day – I rode her in the morning and then by one o’clock in the afternoon the Breeders’ Cup office rang me and told me the bad news.”
Soumillon said he had been surprised by the test result but admitted he had lost his sense of smell for a few days after going out to dinner in France.
“It is quite amazing, the only symptom I had was that my smell had left me for three or four days, other than that, I was feeling good,” he said.
“I just had a dinner in France before I left with some friends at a restaurant and we were all quite far away from each other.
“Later I discovered that I was positive then a few days later two others were, that was the worst thing – it was not something you could see coming.”
He added: “My body is feeling good, I didn’t have to go to hospital and I had no bad symptoms afterwards, that is the most important thing because there are people out there dying from it and having bad problems.”
Soumillon’s big race rides will be Admire Mars in the Hong Kong Mile, Normcore in the Cup, Ho Ho Khan (Vase) and Computer Patch (Sprint), after which he will remain in Hong Kong until February 14 on a two-month licence.
“I am fully booked on the 13th before entries at the moment, I am hoping my horses don’t get reserved because everyone wants to win on the big day,” he said.
“I have some good rides so I am quite happy but it is just the beginning, I have to build something strong from there.”
• More about the Longines Hong Kong International Races at the HKJC website