By Jon Lees
Hong Kong: Christophe Soumillon put two months of Covid-19 misery behind him to ride a double at Sha Tin on a belated start to a winter stint in Hong Kong.
The ten-time French champion jockey had not ridden since late October when he travelled to the US for the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland where he tested positive for coronavirus.
As a result he missed the winning rides on Tarnawa (Breeders’ Cup Turf) and Order Of Australia (Mile) – and was also ruled out of the Hong Kong International Races where he was due to partner Normcore, who won the Hong Kong Cup, because he was required to undergo more testing.
Back in action at Sha Tin on Sunday, Soumillon secured wins on Bella Baby, his first ride back, and Winning For All to mark a successful start to a two-month stay.
“I’m really happy, it’s a good start,” he said. “I got two winners but with better draws today, maybe I could have got one more. But it’s a good start, I feel really well – I’m still not 100 per cent fit, I think I’m still at 90 [per cent]. More racing and trackwork will make me stronger.”
Soumillon has been phlegmatic about having to miss big-race winners, recognising that many others have been more seriously impacted by the pandemic, and that other winning opportunities are likely to come his way.
“I’m older, I have so much experience now – good and bad – I feel fitter and more focused,” he said.
“That makes me improve in the end, I came here with a smile on my face – you can’t see with this mask on but I’m really happy to be back.
“When you see all the support I get from the owners and the trainers, that’s something that really proves that they want me to be back in the game.
“The thing is when you come here, you can show people that you are motivated and you can still do what you do best, it’s good to get a nice start. I’m very happy.”
• Find out more about racing in Hong Kong at the HKJC website