Shinn makes safe Passage back to winners’ circle
"I'M BACK!" That was the message from an emotional Blake Shinn after he rode Dawn Passage to victory at Royal Randwick in his first ride back after a near career-ending injury.
It was an ordinary morning at the Randwick barrier trials in August when Shinn was dislodged from his mount and rushed to hospital with suspected spinal injuries.
Thankfully, the Melbourne Cup and Golden Slipper-winning jockey was able to walk out of the hospital, thus taking the first steps on a long and painful road to recovery.
His win on the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott debutant Dawn Passage in the opener wasn't a Group 1 race, but it meant every bit as much to Shinn.
"There's mixed emotions,'' he said, fighting back tears.
"It's everything. I want to cry for the pain I have had to go through to get here. For the hardship of putting my body through it all, the dieting, and the constant effort and the discipline.
"I believe in fate and I believe someone was looking down on me helping me today.''
Shinn, like all elite athletes, is an intensely focused and driven competitor and if anyone was going to overcome this mammoth obstacle, it would be him.
But even Shinn, as determined as anyone and more than most, still had days consumed by doubt.
"There are times when you are sitting in the hospital bed thinking, 'Am I going to be able to come back,''' he said.
"It's been a long road - a lot of hard work and lot of supports with me and (Saturday) is as good as winning a really big race.
"I am overwhelmed by the support and for people to have the confidence to put me on their horses first day back and to be able to show them that I can come back at the level that I've shown in the past is a big thing for myself.
"To be able to repay the people who gave me that support is something I wanted to do for them.''
Shinn's glorious return to the winner's stall was met with great joy and appreciation from rival jockeys, trainers and the public. Even James Harron, the owner of the horse that Shinn beat, Aussie, was delighted to see his great mate in such a state.
It wasn't that long ago that Shinn rode Harron's Capitalist to victory in the Golden Slipper and a host of other winners in the emerald green.
"I am so happy for Blake,'' Harron said.
"He is a great guy and is very dedicated to the sport and to see him come back and win at his first ride after so much time on the sideline is fantastic."
Shinn's epic return overshadowed the win of the Tulloch Lodge colt Dawn Passage, who scooted away from his rivals to post an emphatic win.
"He is a lovely horse,'' Waterhouse said.
"We said to Blake to just relax the horse because we knew there would be a lot of speed up front. The world's his oyster now - the Slipper is not that far away and there is a $2 million Inglis race in only two weeks' time.
"He has a lovely group of owners in him, a few first-time overs, so it is a dream come true. It would only happen in Australia. What a wonderful country we've got and here we are on Australia Day and we've won the first!''