Derek Leung Ka-chun has had his own share of bumps and bruises this season, so he feels for fallen rival Nash Rawiller, but the leading local rider is also keen to capitalise on a rare Group One opportunity on Sunday.
Leung will partner Strathmore for trainer Tony Millard in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize after picking up the ride following Rawiller’s shocking fall nearly three weeks ago.
When Rawiller dislocated his right shoulder and was ruled out of his remaining rides, Leung scored the pick-up ride on Strathmore and the five-year-old staged a form turnaround to run second to smart young sprinter Magic Legend.
Even though Leung is in front in the race for this season’s Tony Cruz Award with 23 wins so far this season, Group One rides are few and far between.
“And I think he has a chance too,” Leung said. “It’s hard for us locals to get these rides, and even though it was really unlucky for Nash, I am going to try and make the most of it.”
Strathmore was a closing third in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize last season behind Chautauqua and Lucky Bubbles, but the well-bred gelding returned in poor form this season, with five unplaced runs preceding the last start second.
Strathmore has also drawn gate two, giving Leung options in what will almost certainly be a tight, tactical and possibly rough race.
“I had a similar draw last time and I will try and ride him the same again, to try and be a bit closer to the field,” he said. “The key for him is to get a clean run, he doesn’t seem to like having too many horses around him. If I can get him into clear space in the straight I think he can run well and at least run on into the prizemoney.”
Leung spent six weeks sidelined after being concussed in a hard fall from Caga Force at Sha Tin in late October but has bounced back with seemingly even more confidence that before.
On Sunday, the 28-year-old also reunites with Danny Shum Chap-shing’s stayer Gorgeous Again, who is chasing four straight wins.
Leung has been aboard for the last two wins and believes the Caribbean Sea Handicap is another winnable race for the four-year-old.
“I rode him in trackwork and he still feels well,” Leung said after Gorgeous Again matched motors with Group One Champions Mile runner Circuit Land in a back straight gallop on Thursday. “He always misses the kick, but the main thing is getting him to jump faster and still getting him to settle in the race.”