Derek Leung Ka-chun returned from suspension with a bang when riding a fantastic treble at Sha Tin on Sunday.
After being forced to miss the past two meetings, Leung had lost ground to Matthew Chadwick and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu in the race to win the Tony Cruz Award for leading local jockey but his superb three-timer has just about kept Leung’s slim hopes alive.
“I need a lot of luck and something magical, but I will do my best,” Leung said. “This is my best season and I’m still hungry and I want to ride more winners before the end of the season.
“I’m very happy to come back in this way from suspension. Things are going well at the moment, but I want to ride more winners.”
Heading into the meeting, the 33-year-old rider was nine behind Chadwick and four off Ho but he started to close the gap early on the card when Chicken Dance produced a strong finish to win the Class Four Swaine Cup (1,200).
Always well positioned just off the pace by Leung, the six-year-old came down the centre of the track to beat championship chaser Joao Moreira and Proud Dragon by a neck.
Chicken Dance had been a shade disappointing since winning two of his first four starts in 2019 but he showed signs his turn was again near when finishing second on his previous start.
Trainer Paul O’Sullivan was pleased to see him get his head in front again after a troubled start to the campaign.
“He sustained an injury earlier in the season and it did take him a few races to get through it,” O’Sullivan said. “He’d slowly progressed and kept improving. I thought today was his type of race, he had a good barrier and he was entitled to be very competitive.
“He probably hasn’t progressed as I thought he would after his first few starts but today the sting is out of the track and that is a good thing for him. The tracks can be very firm but it’s well presented here, so he got his chance and he took it well.”
One person who may not have been thrilled to see Chicken Dance win was Moreira, who had ridden him in his last start but had chosen wrongly on this occasion.
“I think Joao was just committed to ride another horse, I’m not really sure but these things happen,” O’Sullivan said.
A few races later, Leung caused a minor shock when Woodfire Bro got his head in front for the first time when winning the Class Four Arculli Trophy (1,600m).
A good runner-up on his debut in April, the Peter Ho Leung-trained three-year-old had displayed further promise when finishing in midfield on his subsequent four starts and the $12 shot put it all together here.
Leung was at his best from the start, managing to get a prominent position after breaking from a difficult draw in stall 11 and Woodfire Bro had enough left in the tank late to hold off market leaders President’s Choice and Let’s Do It.
Leung brought up his treble when overcoming another difficult draw aboard All Riches in the Class Four Chan Trophy (1,400m).
Well backed into $4.9, All Riches broke well from stall 13 and was taken to the lead immediately by Leung, who managed to set perfect fractions from the front to easily hold off the late run by Plikclone and win by a length and a quarter.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s four-year-old will clearly be one to watch next season after managing to win his past two starts from outside draws and he will be up into Class Three company after another impressive win.