Derek Leung Ka-chun has left no stone unturned as he tries to conquer Seoul’s sandy surface when Fight Hero represents Hong Kong in the Korea Sprint on Sunday.
The Korean Racing Authority instituted the international event two years ago and the success of the Sha Tin raiders has been mixed – with Super Jockey scoring a dominant win in 2016 and Lucky Year coming second-last in 2017.
While the Hong Kong horses have an edge in class, the key to winning and losing is being able to handle the unique sand track – one that is very deep and soft and bears little resemblance to Sha Tin’s all-weather track.
So Leung has done his homework as he chases the best possible result, watching replays of all the competitors, watching other races on the track, walking the surface and asking for advice from other jockeys who have ridden there.
One of the riders he spoke to was Karis Teetan, who guided Super Jockey to victory.
“He said try not to get too far back but that is the horse’s pattern so hopefully, because he’s a bit fresh, he can race handy,” Leung said.
“In Hong Kong he comes from behind and hopefully he can handle the kickback. If he can handle the surface, I think he’ll run quite well.”
Making Leung’s life harder is the barrier draw, with Fight Hero handed the outside gate of 13, but trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak does not think it will be a problem.
“Both the Hong Kong starter and Korean starter had discussed my horse,” Tsui said. “We know that in Hong Kong he can be a little bit playful in the stalls.
“In Korea, the starter can decide that horses like him, who can play up, should start from the outside – obviously, it’s better for him as he’s not in the gates so long, and it’s also fair for the other horses.
“Fight Hero will be going back in the field anyway and sitting behind other horses, so a wide draw works for us. If he was drawn inside, he would have been in trouble after the first 200m, getting a lot of kickback. He can stay out of it that way and it gives us more options into the straight.”
The 13-runner Korea Sprint also features visitors from France, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, in addition to eight locals.
Leung will be hoping his second international trip goes a little better than his first when Classic Emperor knuckled at the start and flipped the jockey off in Dubai.