Wong holds out hope for Chance Derby start

Robin Parke

TRAINER Alex Wong Yu-on has an anxious seven-day wait to see if exciting Winning Chance gets a run in the Hong Kong Derby - but he's prepared for more heartbreak on the eve of the Classic.

Last year Wong had to watch helplessly as boom galloper Deerfield was withdrawn with a leg injury when near favourite for Helene Star's Derby and this year he gambled on Winning Chance winning or finishing second in the Classic Trial.

''We went close but it wasn't good enough. That's been the way for some of his runs. Finishing second would have meant automatic qualification for the Derby and I thought we were going to do it,'' said Wong.

''It was frustrating because we had Our Pal beaten when he looked like winning. You end up finishing third and that's not good enough.'' He must now wait and see if the 14 qualifiers for the $4 million Derby are all declared as Winning Chance is first reserve for the most important domestic race on the calendar.

Wong added: ''I will know more after final gallops on Tuesday morning but I asked around all the trainers this morning and it looks as if he won't get a run.'' But should Winning Chance be thrown a lifeline, Wong believes the American bred will go into the Derby with a big claim.

''I believe he will run out 1,800 metres and he would be absolutely ready to run a top race,'' he said.

Even though several of those eligible to run in the 1,800-metre showpiece have no logical chance, that is unlikely to stop trainers declaring them so that owners can see their colours carried in the Classic.

It's hard to see horses like Gold Yue Yee and Evasive Tactic playing a significant part in the outcome of the February 27 showdown but trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee has a love affair with the race and they are almost certain to run - barring accidents.

Winning Chance also finished well clear of the likes of Accelerating, Arman's Sax and McBrave in the Derby trial but they are guaranteed a run in the Derby as they arrived already classified into Class One on the strength of their overseas form. Winning Chance is still in Class Two.

Trainer Geoff Lane is hoping to hear today whether brilliant French rider Gerald Mosse has accepted the ride on outsider Accelerating in the Derby.

Mosse took Accelerating through an improved piece of work at Sha Tin yesterday morning in which he showed some of the zest he displayed when only beaten two lengths in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

But Mosse could also ride All Thrills for Allan while the mount on Tony P. H. Chan's Derby trial runner-up Fortune Ride is also up for grabs.

Walter Swinburn will decide on his Derby mount after partnering Ivan Allan's Wonderful Moment in his work tomorrow morning. Swinburn, riding in superb form, also has the choice of Peter Ng Bik-kuen's Arman's Sax who finished fifth to Sterling Town in the Derby trial.

Trainer Lawrie Fownes has Super Fit and impressive China Cruise involved with the latter an intriguing possibility.

Derby field: Accelerating, All Thrills, Arman's Sax, China Cruise, Dashing, Evasive Tactic, Fortune Ride, Gold Yue Yee, McBrave, Our Pal, Smiling, Sterling Town, Super Fit and Wonderful Moment. Reserves: Winning Chance, Survey King, Thunderbolt.