Jockey Brenton Avdulla enjoyed a momentous 2018 - winning the Group 1 Golden Slipper on Estijaab, the jockey's premierships in his adopted home New South Wales and secured a riding contract in Japan in addition to marrying Taylor Paine, daughter of former jockey Neil Paine.
The Victorian-bred 28 year-old can end 2019 on a similar high on Sunday as he looks to secure his first international Group 1 win, aboard In Her Time, in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint at his first ride in Hong Kong.
Added into his busy schedule and expectation for Sha Tin, with the birth of his first child on Sunday.
"After a long weekend Taylor and I are proud to welcome our amazing little man Hunter James Avdulla born on Sunday at 6.04 pm, weighing 3.5 kg. Both mum and bub are doing well," reported Avdulla who plans to leave on Saturday, after racing in Sydney, and return on Monday.
This will be the first time Avdulla has ridden in Hong Kong but not the first time he's been to Sha Tin.
"I took advantage, if that's the right word, of getting suspended in Sydney and came up to see Chautauqua win the Chairman's Sprint. He's a horse I'd ridden a few times and it was fantastic to see what he did that day, producing his big, big finish," he said.
"So, I've seen the track first hand and plenty of it, of course, on television. It's a nice, big, fair course and it's no issue to ride there for the first time. You tend to know the horses there as well, especially the sprinters, as we see them regularly and that's a plus as well."
So, what does he make of In Her Time's prospects against the Hong Kong sprinters?
"You know, there's a lot of depth among the Hong Kong sprinters. They're all very decent horses and now we've got the up and coming three-year-old Aethero who looks pretty special so, maybe, we're up against it.
"However, the Australian sprinters almost always measure up wherever they go and she [In Her Time] is very consistent. You can forgive her run in the Everest when she returned this season and then her second-up run at Flemington [when third to Nature Strip] was full of merit. She beat home Group 1 winners like Santa Ana Lane and Alizee.
"The draw [conducted on Thursday] will be important. I know everyone says that but, in her case, I'd want her to get as cosy a run as possible. I don't know whether she can win but I am really looking forward to riding her and whatever happens, I don't think she'll be disgraced," he said.
Avdulla, the Melbourne born and raised son of well-known bookmaker and punter Peter Avdulla whom he regularly accompanied to the races as a teenager, took a "punt" of his own by relocating to Sydney where the riding ranks are regarded as the most intensely competitive - even cut-throat - in Australia.
Pre-post favourite for the $A6.7m Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) Aethero only arrived in Hong Kong two days before Christmas last year and, his first preparation, was unbeaten in three starts. The Australian-bred gelding has tasted defeat only once in six outings and his success underscores the fickle nature of breeding.
Aethero's dam Pinnochio raced just eight times, winning once, a maiden at Wyong by a bare margin when prepared by the late Guy Walter, with career earnings of just $18,555.
She, however, has elevated herself to 'blue hen' status as a matron.
Her first born, Puppet Master (by Foxwedge) has won twice but then came the brilliant Classique Legend (by Not A Single Doubt) and now Aethero.
Come Sunday, she may well be the dam of the best sprinter in the world.
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