While Zac Purton and Joao Moreira fight out a thrilling jockeys’ championship there is still some interest a little further down the table with Derek Leung Ka-chun and Matthew Poon Ming-fai in a battle for the Tony Cruz Award.
Leung is aiming for back-to-back victories in the award for leading local rider, holding a three-win edge over Poon (34 to 31) with six meetings remaining in the season and both riders head into Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting with solid chances.
Leung’s best hope of success is aboard Deal Maker in the Class Four Peng Chau Handicap (1,200m) as the four-year-old steps up in distance following a fast-finishing third over 1,000m last time out.
Deal Maker was outpaced early, forcing him to settle behind midfield, and was then outsprinted by winner Beaut Beaut, but he found the line nicely for third.
The son of Darci Brahma’s final 400m sectional of 22.72 seconds was the fastest of the race and a step up in trip looks ideal.
From barrier five, Deal Maker should be able to settle slightly closer to the lead in a race that lacks pace.
Leung also rides Charity Wings for Danny Shum Chap-shing in the Class Four Lantau Island Handicap (1,650m).
Charity Wings has built a reasonable course and distance record at the extended mile in his first season, breaking through for a win three starts back and finishing in the first four in five of his nine starts.
Charity Wings hasn’t raced since a third at the Valley on May 2 but Leung partnered the four-year-old in an encouraging trial at Sha Tin on June 8.
Despite being over 1,200m, Charity Wings was able to take a handy spot and finished strongly, finishing less than a length behind Insayshable under a firm hold.
Poon has four rides and his best chance is three-year-old import Eagle in the Class Three Grass Island Handicap (1,200m).
Eagle has finished midfield at his three local starts so far, all at Sha Tin, but Poon’s five-pound claim, a gear change and switch to the smaller track should result in an improvement.
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai has gone for blinkers and judging by the way the gelding trialled in the headgear last Tuesday, it should result in a sharper race day performance.
Eagle did it easily in front, jumping clean and then travelling kindly out in front to clock the fastest time of three trials that morning.