Leilati may have missed a place in the Hong Kong Derby field but the improving import can give his connections a worthy consolation in winning the Association Of Hong Kong Racing Journalists Challenge Cup at Sha Tin this afternoon. When Leilati scored two starts back over the Sha Tin mile, trainer David Oughton said that due to Leilati's light physical conformation at this stage, the Derby was a side issue with the horse rather than an urgent goal so there will be no tears in the camp over his exclusion. But Oughton also said he thought the improvement he expected to come from Leilati - which has a win over Hong Kong Cup winner Alexander Goldrun in his Irish three-year-old form - would see him competitive at the top level next season, and that augurs well for his prospects in a field largely comprised of quite well-explored gallopers. Leilati won over the course and distance of today's race in a tough, grinding sort of effort after Brett Prebble rode cleverly to put him into the race as early as possible in the straight. With attackers on all sides, Leilati showed determination to fend them off and hold his rivals on the line. Oughton stepped Leilati up the 1,800 metres at his most recent start and he certainly lost no admirers there, with the moderate tempo of the race contributing to his third to Art Trader and Liberal's Choice. Perhaps Oughton figured to get a truer tempo for Leilati by dropping him back into the mile event but that part of the plan has not exactly been fulfilled, on paper anyway. The race appears devoid of leaders, with Nilometer - a surprise leader in his last start - the nearest thing to a frontrunner in the field. While a true tempo would assist Leilati from his wider draw, the most important factor will be Prebble getting into a challenging position then defying those around to run him down. Ultra-consistent Cheeky must again be a chance after another sterling run at Happy Valley but he continues to attract poor luck in races. Likewise, Five Grains seems to get more than his share of difficulties as he has an awkward head carriage and is not always a straight forward ride but he is one of the dangers.