There was almost a subtle omen for the future in Derek Leung Ka-chun’s winning double to take him to the position of leading local senior jockey so far this season, just a day after the incumbent doyen, Howard Cheng Yue-tin, was left staring at a difficult future.
It was Cheng’s handling of Master Gold on September 18 that left him with a possible “show cause” hearing before the Licensing Committee to keep his licence, and the same horse which Leung kicked home to start the pair that landed him the Jockey Challenge.
Master Gold was never closer than four deep in the run on the all-weather surface but was a timely reminder that continuity and rhythm are even more important than wide running on the quirky surface.
“On the dirt, it’s not so important to get cover, and especially on this horse,” Leung explained.
“When I rode him in the morning trackwork, I can feel that he is on and off the bridle all the time but also that he loves the dirt under his feet. So the job for me was just to try to be travelling smoothly, and sitting out wide made that easier - get him in behind and you don’t know that he will react the right way. Despite the extra ground, he really was strong and tried hard when the finish was close.”
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai led in a double himself, with Kei Chiong Ka-kei winning on Snow Slider for him and Leung rounded out the day with what the trainer called “an executive decision” to score from the front on Jolly Banner.
“The intention was to ride him with cover but Derek made the call to keep going and sit outside the leader and I guess if he didn’t make that call, the horse would have been forced deep,” Yiu said.
Leung said that he was always prepared to be fluid with instructions for horses drawn out.
“Fourth or fifth and cover is a good plan before the race but so much can happen when you’re drawn out there and, when you can’t make it, you have to decide by yourself what the best idea is,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to be leading but he got there quite OK. We always thought that he’ll get further than today’s 1,400m and he was quite strong at the finish.”