"Blake back on Top"
Feb 13, 2015
"Blake back on Top"
Blake Shinn's career and reputation were in tatters three years ago, when his gambling compulsion was laid bare for all to see.
Caught betting by stewards on all forms of racing, he was banned from riding for a year. But sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to appreciate what you have.
Shinn won a Melbourne Cup on Viewed and had won a Sydney premiership by the time he was 21. A successful career was there for the taking.
"I had it and lost it," Shinn admits.
He lost it literally when his revealed betting turnover in stewards' inquiries totalled close $1 million. He was sent to a psychiatrist for his gambling problem as part of his ban and that helped.
Shinn was left with a long road back to earn the respect of owners and trainers. It was done at places such as Scone and Goulburn with help of trainers who probably won't have carnival horses.
But one man in particular stood out - the late Guy Walter.
"He helped me a lot. I really can't say how much. I was riding for him and making the most of what I had and learning every day," Shinn said. "Guy dying was tough for everyone."
With the backing of Walter gone, Shinn could have stayed as one of many jockeys on the radar for carnival rides. Instead he has stepped up and taken his career to another level. He sits third on the jockeys' premiership and is now getting some of the best rides.
Shinn has bookings on two of the best three-year-olds in the country - First Seal and Shooting To Win - and has picked up the ride on boom two-year-old Headwater for Team Hawkes.
"I'm glad First Seal and Shooting To Win are a girl and a boy because it means I don't have to make a choice between them yet," Shinn said.
"They are among the best horses I have ridden. It is great to have those associations."
Intense by nature, Shinn wanted to get back to this place and is aware as the autumn of 2105 begins that all his hard work has opened a massive opportunity.
"I could have had this a few years ago if I didn't stuff up. That might sound a bit silly to say but it's also probably true," he said. "You look at it and want it but you have to earn it and it has not been easy to get trust back.
"This carnival could set me up for the rest of my career if things go right. I have worked hard for the past three years to get back to this position.
"To be riding horses like First Seal and Shooting To Win is a fantastic start and I'm also getting chances with Godolphin, Chris Waller and best trainers in Sydney and hopefully I can capitalise on it."
Shinn rode First Seal to her Flight Stakes win and had the highest praise for her before she resumes in the Light Fingers Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.
"She is one of best horse I have ever ridden," he said. "She has a great turn of foot. She's strong and just has a presence about her.
"She's got a big motor. She is going terrific. Obviously 1200 metres is short of her best distance but she won first-up before and she can sprint well fresh. It is a quality field and she will have to be very good to win because she is going to improve."
Shinn also has a foot in the Godolphin camp, riding Haptic in the Lonhro Plate on Saturday and He's Your Man for Chris Waller in the Apollo Stakes.
"To be given the chance to ride He's Your Man by Chris is another opportunity I realise I wouldn't have had in the past few years," he said.
"He is obviously a very smart horse, he won an Epsom, but he is also below his best trip on Saturday. It is a case of give him the right run and with a horse like him sometimes class takes over."
Shinn rode Haptic in his Rosehill trial win before he came out and backed it up on on debut with a strong win at Randwick.
"He looks a ready-made racehorse and with a two-year-old that is a big plus," Shinn said. "it is another race with a lot of depth, but he is one of the chances."
Shinn will have another important appointment in the next week or so when he appeals against a five-meeting careless riding charge.
"I'm basically booked for different horses every Saturday throughout the carnival," he said. "It was a charge I fought and feel I can beat.
"If it's not missing Shooting To Win and Headwater next week, it would be First Seal the week after, so I don't want to miss any time."
By Chris Roots - The Sydney Morning Herald