Leung Hou-ling, Kenneth Cheng with world's best showjumpers
Hong Kong's Raena Leung Hou-ling and Kenneth Cheng Man-kit will live the dream as they rub shoulders with the world's best riders at the much-anticipated and inaugural Longines Hong Kong Masters.
The two riders are in the mix thanks to invitations from organisers who are keen to give something back to Hong Kong.
"We want to create a legacy and what better way than to have a couple of local riders also taking part," said Matthieu Gheysen, vice-president of EEM Asia, the event's organiser. "Kenneth and Raena will not only take part but they will also be giving lessons to youngsters over the next three days. This will be the chance for the young people on Hong Kong to meet their heroes."
Leung, 24, will ride two horses, Orphee du Granit and Arsalla, and will take part in all six competitions, including the showpiece Longines Grand Prix on Saturday, where the 25-strong field will face 12 obstacles with a height of 1.6 metres. Cheng, however, is expected to only take part in the speed challenges, riding Jockey Club Caballo.
"It's a great privilege, to be invited to take part, to be able to jump in front of a home crowd," said Germany-based Leung.
While this will be the first opportunity for Leung to take part in a major international competition in front of home fans, Cheng is looking forward to what will be his second chance, having represented Hong Kong at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when equestrian events were held in Sha Tin.
"I was young then, and trying to gain as much experience as I could. I remember coming up against riders like Ben (Maher)," said Cheng. "I hope I will be able to perform better this time and hope I get some tips from the top riders who are here."
Cheng has been sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club since 2008. He will be looking to impress everyone, with his contract only being extended until June this year.
"I'm very grateful for the Jockey Club for giving me the chance to ride in this event. There will be no lack of motivation, taking part in front of friends, family and sponsors," Cheng added.
But all eyes will be on Leung, who will be going the whole hog. "In theory, she could even win the top purse, which is in excess of US$200,000," said Gheysen.