Leading local jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun’s star continued to rise with his masterful front-running display on Beauty Generation – but the feel good win of the day seemed to mean something to everybody.
For Hong Kong racing fans, for Leung’s fellow Chinese jockeys and for his wife Kit Li – due to give birth to the couple’s first son on January 1 – the win was a moment to savour.
Leung won last season’s Tony Cruz Award as leading local and this term has taken another step forward, securing a place in the top five of the jockeys’ championship with 18 wins through the first 29 meetings.
Yet from the wild reception from the 90,000-plus fans after Leung’s win and the congratulatory hugs from rival jockeys, it was clear this win carried far more significance than most Group One victories.
Leung became the second Chinese jockey to win on international day, joining former apprentice school classmate Matthew Chadwick, who won consecutive Hong Kong Cups on California Memory in 2011 and 2012.
“It wasn’t just a big win for me, but for all the local jockeys,” Leung said. “It’s very hard to get an opportunity in a big race from owners and trainers, because they have so many options to choose a good jockey.
“We have to prove that we are reliable and can be trusted. This season, everything has been going smooth, I’ve had some luck and I think I have continued to improve.
“I have to thank the owners, the Kwok family. They showed faith in me and had confidence I would get the job done.”
Hong Kong jockey Derek Leung scores a memorable @LONGINES Hong Kong Mile win aboard Beauty Generation, a first G1 for both horse and rider. It's the third Mile win for trainer John Moore, after Able One (2011) and Able Friend (2014) #HKIR pic.twitter.com/6Et8jBZUGr— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 10, 2017
The Apprentice Jockeys’ School headmistress Amy Chan Lim-chee was one of the first to embrace Leung after his press conference.
The 29-year-old first started his riding career under the guidance of Lance O’Sullivan in New Zealand before moving to Sha Tin and the trainer’s brother Paul, who said that Leung had showed off his greatest strength in his first Group One win.
“He has always been a great judge of pace and can rate a horse in front. That was the skill he showed today, he knows what too fast is and he knows what too slow is,” O’Sullivan said.
“It’s fantastic for Derek, I was on the phone to Lance and he is absolutely over the moon with the result.”