Cheng in line for Sacred blessing
HK ace may replace Mosse on star sprinter
Top local jockey Howard Cheng Yue-tin may be about to improve his big-race record as a shock frontrunner to dethrone Gerald Mosse as the rider of world champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom.
Speculation has been rife that Mosse (pictured) would be replaced on the four-year-old since his unlucky second behind Good Ba Ba in the Group One Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on March 16, but no decisions had been finalised until a meeting between trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie and owner Sin Kang-yuk this week.
Yiu has previously said he is likely to target the Group Two Gome Cup, 1,200m, at Sha Tin on May 1 as the next target for Sacred Kingdom, who would be a long odds-on favourite for the new feature race under the set weights conditions.
Cheng, 26, has been the leading Chinese jockey in Hong Kong for the past two years, finishing sixth on the championship ladder behind perennial champion Douglas Whyte in 2006-07, and has regularly represented Hong Kong in the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley.
However, his teaming up with Sacred Kingdom would be one of the surprises of the season - so much so that Cheng himself was surprised that he was a strong candidate for the mount when the South China Morning Post rang to ask him about the engagement yesterday.
'I haven't been told anything about it but it would be very good news. He is a great horse, a world champion, and I would be extremely happy to ride him any time,' Cheng said.
Expatriate riders are usually booked to be the regular partners of horses of the calibre of Sacred Kingdom, but sources say that pattern was part of the motivation for Sin to decide to give Cheng a chance at the big time on the horse ranked officially as the world's top sprinter.
Cheng has been a very consistent performer in day-to-day racing but is yet to win at racing's elite level. His major race record to date consists of six Group Three wins and includes a remarkable run in the National Day Cup each October, which he has won for the past four runnings.
However, he was successful in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on Man Of Honour when that race held only a Group Three rating in 2001. Yiu was unavailable for comment yesterday.