Derek Leung Ka-chun brushed aside a season of missed opportunity and tough luck when he was able to boot home rank outsider Mission Tycoon in Sunday’s Classic Cup (1,800m).
Leung was the toast of Sha Tin for his perfectly timed front-running ride which saw him stack the field up before dashing for home on the $92 chance, leaving odds-on favourite Dark Dream in his wake.
The win was the biggest moment in the 30-year-old’s career since his win on Beauty Generation in the 2017 Hong Kong Mile, where he got the cash with a near identical ride.
In doing so, Leung became the first local jockey to win the HK$10 million race in its 10-year history, while trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen ended a run of outs for local trainers also.
After not running further than 1,400m before last month’s runner-up performance in the Classic Mile at $205, Mission Tycoon was again the forgotten horse, with punters looking elsewhere.
“He surprised me, but when you lead in the race and no one challenges, you never know what can happen,” Leung said.
The win brought second-season training sensation Lor his second victory in the four-year-old series along with back-to-back quinellas after Dark Dream ran second. Lor’s third runner in the race, Furore also impressed, running a fast-finishing fourth.
The trainer said with uncertainty surrounding the tempo of the race, he was happy to leave the plans to Leung.
“I asked Derek just to jump and see how it unfolded – if no one wanted to lead, lead by yourself,” Lor said. “I made a small gear change going from blinkers to a visor stepping up to 1,800m so maybe that made a bit of difference. He travelled better.”
Mission Tycoon wins the Classic Cup at 91-1! Frankie Lor saddles three of the first four - just as in the Classic Mile - but hot favourite Dark Dream can never quite get to the grips with Derek Leung's all-the-way winner. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/NIQqDn0iq5— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 17, 2019
With gaps quickly approaching in the jockeys ranks, the win has the potential to kick-start the back-end of Leung’s season.
“I had been doing well early in the season, but I made a mistake and missed around six meetings [through suspension] and then all my opportunities were gone,” Leung lamented.
“[Silvestre] de Sousa and [Alexis] Badel came here and took a lot of the rides and it went completely opposite for me, it was getting worse.
“So I just put my head down, tried not to make any mistakes and try harder and hopefully things will come good. Especially here, when you don’t ride a winner for a couple of meetings, you are just forgotten.”
The grand final of the Hong Kong Derby now beckons for Leung and Lor where they will attempt to stretch the son of Written Tycoon to 2,000m.
Finishing no worse than second in the four-year-old series to date, Mission Tycoon will be a serious contender in next month’s feature.
“He went to Classic Mile and everyone said it was maybe too far for him, but he handled it, this time 1,800m and he handled it, it is all about the tempo,” he said.
“He is a big-striding horse, you never know, no one tries to kill your horse in the big race because they all want to run a good race. As long as I don’t make it too slow.
“I am always happy winning the big race, it is very hard to do, especially for the local jockeys.”
With the first three horses in running rounding out the placings, Furore was one of the only ones to make ground from the rear of the field, with jockey Hugh Bowman burning down the outside of the track.
The Australian said he was happy with the performance heading into the Derby next month.
“It was a slow pace – but it wasn’t ridiculously slow, they went a nice pace early and then they slowed right up,” Bowman said.
“I was just at the back-end of the wash there, which didn’t disrupt me too much but when I asked him to go, he let down very well but just couldn’t sustain it to the line. I thought off the back of the last win it was a good run leading into the Derby.”