When local lad Leung beat foreign stars
He steers home Beauty Generation to victory in Hong Kong Mile
The story might have been about the horse, the owner or the trainer but the tale of the Longines Hong Kong Mile is rightly all about one man - winning jockey Derek Leung.
The 29-year-old claimed his first Group 1 win and became just the second home-grown graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Apprentice Jockeys' School, after Matthew Chadwick, to win an international race at the Club's flagship December meeting.
On a Sunday when the attention of the racing world was focused on Hong Kong, he ably guided the John Moore-trained and Patrick Kwok-owned Beauty Generation to an all-the-way one-length victory.
And rarely has a win been so well-received. Such is the popularity of the man who could boast just two G3 successes before this season but whose talent always promised more.
The crowd cheered wildly for Leung, whose wife Kit is expecting their first child within a month. The weighing room staff stood and applauded as he returned to the scales. Fellow jockeys congratulated him. A warm embrace from rival and colleague Olivier Doleuze said it all.
"I'm very, very happy," said Leung before re-mounting his horse, with arms raised to the sky, for the official presentation. That was plain for all to see and he needn't have said any more but, of course, he did.
"I want to thank everyone for their support, especially to the owner (Patrick Kwok) and to trainer John Moore. I was given an opportunity and I took advantage of it. I am always trying to prove myself and I am hoping there will be more international winners in the future.
"The plan was always to go forward, be in the first two and lead if that's how it turned out. Everything did go very smoothly with a soft lead and I pressed the button at the 450m because I knew he would not stop and he didn't. I had no worries to kick for home early and the horse ran so well," Leung said.
In an all-Hong Kong finish, John Size and Sam Clipperton combined to finish second with Western Express while Moore's Helene Paragon finished third, following on from his second placing last year. - HKJC