For a local jockey, getting a ride on a Group One calibre horse is hard enough, but keeping it when the big day arrives is nigh on impossible, so Derek Leung Ka-chun is ecstatic to have been booked on Beauty Generation for the Group One Hong Kong Mile.
Leung won last season’s Tony Cruz Award as the leading local rider and this term he has worked his way into the top five on the jockeys’ championship through the first quarter of the season with 15 wins.
Two of those victories have been Group Two and Group Three wins on Beauty Generation but many expected trainer John Moore to turn to a visiting jockey to take the ride on December 10.
“I understand when the big days comes, that owners want a more experienced western jockey, but we don’t get many chances to get that experience,” Leung said. “It’s hard to get a ride in these big races so I am thankful to John Moore and the owners, the Kwok family.”
Now in his tenth season, Leung has more than 230 winners but has competed in just one Group One at the Hong Kong International Races – also for the Kwok family – riding Beauty Flame to an unplaced finish in the 2016 Mile.
“But now I have proved myself, that I am good enough,” Leung said. “There is no difference between us, the locals, and the top jockeys, we just need the horses. I feel there is a change happening in the last year or so, the owners trust me and can count on me.”
Leung rode Beauty Generation in a light piece of fast work at Sha Tin on Wednesday morning, with the five-year-old to head into the Group One without a barrier trial.
“He is in good shape,” Leung said after Beauty Generation worked home in 24.1 seconds for his final 400 metres on the dirt. “It was an easy gallop, we are just keeping him a bit fresh. He is fit already with the three runs he has had this season.”
Moore’s Hong Kong Cup hopeful Werther also worked on the inner track for stable rider Tommy Berry, who said the former horse of the year is building towards a big performance on international day.
“That’s the first time he has felt like he is 100 per cent fit this preparation, he has always felt there was some improvement there and he was 90 per cent when he won last start,” Berry said after Werther worked home in 25.1 seconds for his final 400m.
“He really towed me to the line for the first time this prep and the way he worked through past the line strongly showed me he is going to be spot on for the big day.”