Coming of Age…..

His talent in the saddle has never been questioned and now maturity and focus have transformed Blake Shinn into one of the best jockeys in the country.

At Doomben on Saturday, Shinn joined the ranks of jockeys to ride a Group 1 double, winning on Pornichet and Hot Snitzel, and had a total of five winners for the day. It was a display of skill and judgment few could match.

There are so many pitfalls on and off the track and it’s how a jockey recovers from them that is defining. Shinn is proof of that. He had won a Scobie Beasley medal, a Sydney jockeys’ premiership and the 2008 Melbourne Cup, aboard Viewed, by the time he was 21.

But, by his mid-20s, Shinn was serving a disqualification for gambling of the worst kind, betting on horses running in races he was riding in. At the stewards’ inquiry, Shinn’s life was laid bare for all to see – a pathological gaming disorder the experts called it.

That could have easily been the end for him. Like so many he could have ended up an unfulfilled talent. Shinn collapsed at Gosford two years ago because of the rigors of wasting but it was a sign of his commitment to the sport

He is the first to admit he had a lot of problems to solve before getting back to the top and the late Guy Walter played a mentoring role. He did the hard yards in the bush to regain the trust of the racing community.

His way back was punctuated by clashes with the stewards and an intensity that he has now been able to harness.

The difference in Shinn was never so clearly indicated as when he lost his pants in a race at Canterbury three weeks ago and took it in his stride. “It happened and I have to live with it and move on,” Shinn said.

After Saturday, Shinn reflected on the past 12 months. “This day was when I won on Streama [in the Doomben Cup], it was his [Guy Walter’s] last group 1 winner,” Shinn said. “Coming here it was going to be a special day because of that and what has happened since. It’s now special because I have never had a day like it.”

Chris Roots @ The Sydney Morning Herald

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