Ricky Yiu Poon-fai rates winning Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby with a galloper he bought as a yearling as on par with his 2019-20 trainers’ championship.

Voyage Bubble, whom Yiu identified from Torryburn Stud’s draft at the 2020 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale and paid A$380,000 (HK$2.02 million) to buy, lifted his career earnings above HK$25 million when the Classic Mile champion upset the odds over the Derby’s 2,000m trip at Sha Tin.

“Of course, this is the most prestigious race in Hong Kong racing, and I’m very, very happy and grateful to win this Derby race,” said Yiu after winning the event at his eighth attempt.

Before Voyage Bubble overcame beginning from the outside gate to win by a short head from Tuchel, with hot favourite Beauty Eternal a similar margin further back in third spot, 2011 seventh placegetter Outdoor Pegasus had been Yiu’s best-placed Derby finisher.

“That’s not an easy question – both are good,” Yiu smiled when asked how Derby glory compares with premiership success.

Few punters were in the camp of $46 Derby roughie Voyage Bubble – the first leg of a Sha Tin double for Yiu, which Mighty Stride completed when he took out the card-closing Class Three Designs On Rome Handicap (1,400m) – because of concerns about not only his barrier draw but also his stamina.

Voyage Bubble made all from gate five under Jamie Kah to win the Classic Mile on January 29, but Yiu issued Alexis Badel with starkly contrasting Derby riding instructions from barrier 14 on Sunday.

“Over the trip, I was a little bit doubtful. Again with the wide draw [I had doubts]. We needed to try something different. We looked at the previous Derby races – horses drawn on the outside, where they’d finished and where they’d made their moves,” Yiu said.

“We stuck to our plan. He had to be relaxed at the first bend – as relaxed as possible – and make his run along the back stretch slowly, gradually. Alexis Badel did a very good job – a tremendous job.

“Over the mile, he led nearly the whole way, but over 2,000m, we tried something different and he still managed to perform. He’s an incredible horse. This horse is very versatile – over the mile or 2,000m. Obviously, he’s got a great heart.”

Yiu and Badel pull off breathtaking HK Derby heist with $46 chance Voyage Bubble

Last year’s Derby hero, Romantic Warrior, made his first subsequent appearance in the Group One QE II Cup (2,000m), but the Group One Champions Mile is a more probable next assignment for Voyage Bubble.

“The 2,000m isn’t easy to find for the time being. While he’s at his peak, we’ll run him in a month’s time over a shorter trip,” Yiu said when asked about his plans for Voyage Bubble, who has won five of his 11 starts.