All photos by @wallacewanck

“Your man is really in the zone”. And he most definitely is though Derek Leung is not exactly my “man”. Still, it’s always good when the person in horse racing one respects for their knowledge and experience admits something you’ve been mentioning over and over again for at least two years. There’s something to be said about being repetitively irritating- but never boring.

After the surreal shootout at Shatin on Sunday where, in the eye-opener that was the sluggish Queen Mother Memorial Cup, the rider I keep mentioning as flying under the radar and delivering the goods- Derek Leung- was the only one to show some nous. He bounced Reliable Team to the front as EVERYONE expected- and was then allowed to dictate the pace. Why? Who knows?

Reliable Team came third and almost stole the race at odds of 35 to 1. The galloper lost by a neck in a 2400 metre race, a distance that was way too long for him. His rider didn’t remind Reliable Team of that. He showed- what’s that word?- ahhhhh, yes, initiative and more than a little creativity with his ride.

Yes, Danny Shum trained the quinella
and good for Matthew Poon to win the race on Brazilian import Butterfield, but what on earth happened to the big two in the betting- Russian Emperor and Panfield, the latter from Chile and owned by Yue Yun-hing, the same owner as Butterfield?

A Brazilian galloper AND a Chilean galloper racing in Hong Kong in the same race- and one winning? Why not? Vive le difference to the Cantinflas of Hong Kong racing for not going to the same well all the time like many others and often coming up empty handed in the process along with some expensive lessons.

As for the Queen Mother Memorial Cup, if the 2400 metres of the race was a few bridges too far for the favourites along with most of the other runners, does this mean that their trainers- Douglas Whyte and Tony Millard- didn’t know this? And if they did, were their pilots suffering from brain freeze? You know, having Duh Moments?

With so few staying races on the Hong Kong racing calendar- and even if more were to be added- what about the riders?

Right now, too many seem to be all at sea when trying to navigate their way through anything over 1800 metres. These riders can upset the most well laid plans.

There’ve been quite a few Duh moments this season, especially in a couple of the big staying races where experienced jockeys have walked away with a shrug of the shoulders after being victims of circumstance- and the pace of a race turned into a crawl.

As for Derek Leung, apart from coming so close to winning on Reliable Team, he rode the long priced winner Love Me More on Sunday.

Derek also rode a couple of value packed placings. It underlined the fact that, yes, he’s in the zone. He’s also not out there playing fourth or fifth banana to the riders in front of him in the Jockeys leaderboard. Far from it.

The winner of The Tony Cruz Award- twice- given to the most successful Hong Kong born rider, the soon-to-be new Dad for the second time, Derek Leung is no shrinking violet. He’s always out there giving his all despite often being saddled with some pretty average gallopers, but who seem to improve lengths having him on their backs.

It’s not unlike Beauty Generation did when the rider won three consecutive races on the champion miler including the Group 2 Shatin Trophy. Remember? He’s not doing anything differently today. He’s still winning. He’s great to watch.

Lest one forgets, there was also his ride on 98-1 pop Delightful Laos which was of course given no hope by some. Still, he ran an excellent fifth placing in this year’s Hong Kong Derby with Derek Leung using his innate navigational skills.

Delightful Laos ran in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup with another rider aboard. Enough said.

Here’s hoping the penny has finally dropped and that the consistency and efforts of Derek Leung are rewarded with some better rides including a potential future champion.

Why not?

#DerekLeung #HKracing  #QueenMotherMemorialCup #Butterfield #DelightfulLaos