It has been a case of so close yet so far for Derek Leung Ka-chun and Salto Olimpico but the jockey believes there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Brazilian Group One winner has dropped 27 ratings points since arriving in Hong Kong, managing just one win in his 19-start career, but finds a winnable race in the Class Four Dongzhimen Handicap (1,800m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Leung believes the five-year-old has been racing over unsuitable trips up in class this season and will be more at home jumping from the 1,800m chute at the city track.
“He has been very honest in Class Four and he has been running very well in his last two starts,” he said.
“Two starts ago someone took him on at the 1,000m but he still kept finishing at the end and only got beaten by a fine margin.
“Last time it was over the 1,650m and we had a bad draw so we decided to go back a bit, but he ran on and finished well so he has a chance here.”
Drawing barrier five with a long run into the first turn at the tight track, Leung said he expected to roll forward on the David Hall-trained galloper like he had previously over the trip.
Brazilian G1 winner Salto Olimpico enjoys the step up to 1800m & breaks his Hong Kong duck in Class 4 under Derek Leung - back to 3 clear in the race for the Tony Cruz Award. #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/dL0SPT4BUE— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) July 4, 2018
Salto Olimpico’s one win in Brazil came over the 2,000m distance in the Group One Grande Premio Jockey Club De Sa Paulo in 2016 as a three-year-old and he went on to run fourth a month later over 2,400m before being sold to Hong Kong.
After coming to Hong Kong with a rating of 85, Salto Olimpico did not finish better than sixth in his first nine starts before going on to win his 10th outing.
His first six starts this season came over 1,200m to 1,400m distances before stepping up to 2,000m immediately once dropping to Class Four.
“I think 1,800m, 2,000m and 2,200m all suit him, he can handle them all,” Leung said. “He will definitely be in a forward position, I will be very happy if he can lead, if not he will be in the box seat which will keep me happy.
“He is a stayer so he’s not going to be too keen in the mornings, it is just to keep his fitness but he is happy.”
Leung will also ride the versatile Speedy King in the Class Three Dongcheng District Handicap (1,200m), where he is looking to benefit from a strong pace.
The Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained five-year-old has finished strongly in his races this season and won his last start at Happy Valley.
While Class Three races usually do not allow horses with a rating above 80, the race has an expanded ratings band to 85 on Wednesday night, due to the lack of a Class Two race on the night.
The extended band means Speedy King has the rare privilege of carrying less weight than what he won with last start.
“He has been honest for me. He is going to find it tougher on Wednesday but we have a good draw so hopefully we can find a good position and finish strong,” Leung said.
“The distance is no different for him whether it is 1,000m, 1,200m, all-weather or Happy Valley, he just needs a good pace and good situation and he will finish well.”