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Leung warms up for LONGINES International Jockeys�� Championship berth with Master win


Jockey Derek Leung provided the heartwarming story of the day and sent out a warning salvo to some of the world’s best riders in one fell swoop at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 4 December) as he made a triumphant return from injury with victory on Master Gold in the Class 4 Hankow Handicap (1650m).

The local jockey had not ridden since 23 October after a fall on the Sha Tin all-weather track left him bruised and concussed.

The rider could have been forgiven for being ring-rusty after a month on the sidelines, but he credited fitness sessions while he was unable to ride as being the difference between winning and losing on Peter Ho-trained Master Gold (131lb). The four-year-old was trapped deep from gate 13 for much of the dirt race, but stuck on doggedly under a vigorous Leung drive to hold off heavily backed favourite Flying Machine (117lb).

“He is very honest,” Leung said of Master Gold. “Every time he tries very hard but you have to keep up his momentum, otherwise he loses focus. But he does try and that came out in the final stages today.

“For me, I’m so glad to be back, it is what I love to do and it is always tough to just watch. I made sure I worked on my fitness during my break and I knew that I was going to be strong enough late. We are sportsmen – we have to be as fit as we can be when we go out to compete.”

His attention now turns to Wednesday night’s LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship, where he is one of four riders representing Hong Kong, alongside Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte, as they take on eight of the world’s best horsemen.

And Leung, who made an encouraging IJC debut last year, believes he has what it takes to beat out some of the best in the business on home turf.

“Last year, I actually did quite well – I was fifth overall, which was better than any of the other Hong Kong representatives,” he said. “The one thing I found interesting was that these were some of the world’s best riders, but they all rode Happy Valley differently. Some took off early, some waited, but they were different. And that is, I think, my best quality for this competition. We ride here all the time, we know the horses, we know Happy Valley so well, that it is an advantage.”

Flying Machine’s handler Chris So was left lamenting after his trainee flew home to occupy the runner-up stall, a result repeated twice later in the day – in the trophy feature, when Fairy Twins (124lb) charged into second behind D B Pin (116lb) in the Class 3 Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup (1000m), and in the last, with Team Fortune (121lb) just grabbed late by Archippus (123lb) in the Class 2 Salisbury Handicap (1200m).

But the effervescent trainer at least took something from the meeting when he continued his season to remember with Elite Spirit’s win in the Class 4 Granville Handicap (1200m).

“That’s how it goes, it is almost just what could have been,” So said. “But Elite Spirit was something, we’ve had a winner so it’s a good day!”

So suggested that the drop back into Class 4, where he had won off a mark of 59 in November last year, was a big factor in Elite Spirit (133lb) returning to form, as was the return of Brett Prebble atop the six-year-old. Ultimately, though, it was his return to Sha Tin’s all-weather-track that proved the key difference for the son of Trotamondo.

“Today, he had Brett on, he was back in class and he was back on dirt – it was everything coming together,” he said. “He got up to the middle of Class 3 earlier this year but he just hit a bit of a ceiling there, even on dirt. He tried hard but he just couldn’t match them. Class 4 is probably where he is best suited, he could win at the bottom of Class 3 next time out but think that it is Class 4 where he shines. He’s just one of those horses.

“I was a little worried on the bend when he was on the inside and behind a horse that was at big odds [Flying Godspell], but that horse kicked well and that allowed him to get off the rail and challenge at the right time. Now, back to Class 3 we go!”

The length and a half victory took So to 24 wins for the season, two clear of former mentor Caspar Fownes and four ahead of Ricky Yiu with almost a third of the season completed.

D B Pin headed for the top, says Teetan

The Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup was the day’s highlight, and it might be remembered as the day a future top-liner grabbed his first Sha Tin win.

At least, that’s the view of jockey Karis Teetan, who partnered John Size-trained D B Pin to victory down the straight. The four-year-old made it two wins in a row this season after earlier scoring at Happy Valley in Class 4, and Teetan believes that it is only a matter of time before the horse is up in Class 2 – and perhaps even higher.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Teetan said. “John was full of confidence beforehand, he said, just ride the horse wherever he lands, wherever he’s comfortable, and he’ll do the rest. He’s got so much ability, you can feel it when you are on top of him. He’s got a nice build, he’s just put together perfectly.

“As soon as I shook the reins today, he just went for it, he sprinted so well. You can’t beat horses carrying such a light weight when they run like that. And he’s still a little bit green, he looks around a bit, but I think he’ll just keep improving. He’ll go right to the top.”

People’s Knight back on track after gelding operation

The Class 3 Mody Handicap (1650m) on the all-weather track looked a competitive affair on paper, but it may have reinvigorated the Hong Kong Classic Mile hopes of People’s Knight after he won his second race in eight days.

The four-year-old, who was given a rails-hugging ride by Sam Clipperton, had some dirt influences on his dam’s side, but trainer John Moore said he was still surprised just how well he took to the surface.

“He sprinted really well, didn’t he?” Moore said. “But he also dug in deep at the end which was good to see. He’s back to being the horse we always thought he was. Now, he is starting to hit his straps after having quite a setback after gelding. He really hadn’t shown any form earlier on in the season, but I think he’s come to the conclusion that life has to be lived this way these days so let’s get on with winning races!

“He’s put two together now so there’s no reason to suggest it can’t keep going.”

However, the three-time Hong Kong Classic Mile-winning handler says he wants to see People’s Knight win with a light weight before the son of Exceed And Excel joins his plethora of four-year-olds aiming at the race.

“I haven’t really thought about it yet, to be honest,” Moore said. “When we bought him, he was definitely thought of as a Classic Mile horse, and he only strengthened that when he won the Griffin Trophy so easily. But given it’s been such a long road back, I want to try and get another win on the board before then. He’s got the rating now, most likely, but let’s put him into another race over 1400m or a mile here at Sha Tin and see how he fares off a light weight.

“If he’s going to progress the way I’m hoping he will, he can win that and then we can start thinking seriously about the Classic Mile.”

It was almost business as usual for jockeys’ championship 1-2 Moreira and Purton, with the riders each snaring a double – the former taking the first two races on Sledge Hammer and Dragon Harmony, the latter taking the last two events on Seasons’ Bloom and Archippus.

Hong Kong racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night for the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship, with the first on the nine-race card set to jump at 6.30pm.

Derek Leung drives Master Gold to the line to win his first race upon his return from injury.
Photo 1:
Derek Leung drives Master Gold to the line to win his first race upon his return from injury.

Derek Leung celebrates his first win back from injury with trainer Peter Ho and the connections of Master Gold.
Photo 2:
Derek Leung celebrates his first win back from injury with trainer Peter Ho and the connections of Master Gold.

Karis Teetan salutes the crowd as he returns to the winners�� circle aboard D B Pin.
Photo 3:
Karis Teetan salutes the crowd as he returns to the winners�� circle aboard D B Pin.



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