JOCKEY Christophe Soumillon overcame two months of coronavirus hell to ride two winners on his big return.
It is just desserts for the 39-year-old Belgian jockey married to stunning former Miss France Sophie Thalmann.
Robbed of the chance to compete in the ultra lucrative Breeders' Cup in America, Soumillon was victorious on Bella Baby and Winning For All at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong late last year.
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That high came after eight weeks of crushing lows which included him being stuck in quarantine and the subject of rampant social media speculation after a fellow jockey's tweet.
Soumillon's two months of misery started in late October 2020 when a positive coronavirus test saw him axed from the Breeders' Cup.
As a result he was forced to miss winning rides on Tarnawa and Order Of Australia.
The ten-time French champion jockey had to spend two weeks in quarantine there before jetting off to Hong Kong.
Not part of a racing bubble like European jockeys given special dispensation to travel to race, Soumillon chose to complete the standard two-week quarantine period by himself.
Soumillon passed FIVE tests before his arrival in Hong Kong on November 26 but officials were still not happy with his results.
A statement at the time read: "The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been informed by jockey Christophe Soumillon that he has been requested by the department of health to undergo further Covid-19 tests.
"It is unknown at this stage when the testing will be completed and when Soumillon will be released from quarantine.
"Despite having cleared his initial Covid-19 test on his arrival, he has yet to receive an unconditional release from quarantine in order to ride.
"Given these circumstances the stewards have decided to stand him down from Sunday’s riding engagements."
That meant he missed taking part in four Group 1 races at Sha Tin – and inadvertedly ended up becoming the subject of a tweet that cost a rival jockey a £3,900 fine.
Champion jockey Zac Purton was slapped with a fine for misconduct after he posted a message questioning if a rider had tested positive for coronavirus.
Purton's post appeared just before it was revealed Soumillon would be forced to remain in isolation.
The 37-year-old Australian tweeted: "Has a jockey in Hong Kong tested positive for Covid?"
Purton did not name Soumillon but the reference was clear.
And stewards decided it had 'the potential to create uncertainty regarding the continuance of racing in Hong Kong in the immediate future'.
But he was finally given clearance to race again and roared back into action with two wins.
Speaking of his month from hell, he said: "I’m older, I have so much experience now – good and bad – I feel fitter and more focused.
"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."
Thalmann, who was crowned Miss France in 1998, would no doubt have been cheering her hubby on.
The 44-year-old beauty queen, who stands 5ft 11ins compared to her 5ft 6ins husband, has three children with Christophe.
They tied the knot in 2006 and enjoy a globe-trotting lifestyle with the jockey's riding commitments taking them all over the world.
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