Lo has high expectations for Derby

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am

South China football boss Steven Lo Kit-sing is out to make history in Sunday's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby, but says a win would be only the first stage of the racetrack success he is seeking.

Since his first Derby runner just three years ago, Lo has pursued Hong Kong's favourite race as doggedly as he pursues Premier League players to boost his football stocks and his reward this year has been two real chances to win the classic in the John Moore-trained pair, Military Move and Xtension.

Xtension, a costly import from Britain, has more in common with Lo's acquisition of the likes of former Manchester United star Nicky Butt for South China, while Military Move has been a more surprising 'homegrown' product.

'I bought Military Move as a young horse in New Zealand for quite a low price, just NZ$110,000 [HK$628,000], and he became the Derby champion there and I think the prize money was around HK$7 million,' Lo said. 'My trainer, Sean Ritchie, said I should come down to see the race but I was quite busy and didn't think he was a big chance.

'So I stayed here and luckily I was able to watch him win on the television because the Jockey Club bet on that race.'

With a New Zealand Derby in the bag, Lo decided he should add Military Move to his recent assault on the same classic here and take a shot at history.

'My first runner was Never Look Back, who ran fifth, racing under the ownership of Paul O'Sullivan's trainer syndicate in 2008,' Lo recalled. 'Then I had Roma Pegasus under my own name in 2009 and he finished sixth. I'm hoping for better - maybe even a quinella this year, because John tells me both my horses have a good chance - and I think it would make history if Military Move won.'

Indeed it would. While New Zealand Derby placegetters and runners are frequently bought for the following year's Derby here, only two previous winners of that Group One classic have landed at Sha Tin. The David Hayes-trained Helene Vitality won in Auckland as a three-year-old, under the name Hades, and subsequently finished third as favourite in the 2001 Hong Kong Derby. The only other NZ Derby winner - actually, the only other Group One Derby winner from anywhere - to arrive on these shores was 1996 NZ Derby winner Great Command. He was here long enough to be renamed Willing Mascot, but not long enough to race.

'So I had Military Move for this year and then John rang me last summer and said 'Steven, I have found you a very good horse for the Derby',' Lo said. 'I told him I already had my Derby horse but he wouldn't take no for an answer and said 'well, why not have two chances to win?' So I bought Xtension, too.'

But unlike most owners with runners on Sunday, Lo said the Derby was just the first stage of what he hopes to achieve with the pair.

'This is the connection between my horses and my football team. South China has been the champion here for the past four years but I hope they can also be international champions in the Asian Football Federation Cup, which would be a first for a Hong Kong team,' Lo said.

'With Xtension and Military Move, I hope I can have a Hong Kong Derby champion and then they can go on to represent Hong Kong successfully in international racing. It's a very exciting time.'