Derek Leung hopes to reprise Beauty Generation memories at LONGINES Hong Kong International Races

Declan Schuster

06/12/2023 10:33

Derek Leung celebrates aboard star miler Beauty Generation.
Derek Leung celebrates aboard star miler Beauty Generation.

Derek Leung’s biggest win to date came at the 2017 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) and the local ace is hopeful of a return to the big time when he hops aboard Encountered and Money Catcher on Sunday (10 December) at Sha Tin.

A product of The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School, Leung landed his first and only Group 1 win in the 2017 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile atop Beauty Generation, delivering a first-rate front-running drive to triumph with the subsequent two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year (2017/18 & 2018/19).

Earning the Group 1-winning title crowned years of grafting for Leung, who has steadily climbed the city’s riding ranks. His career began some 20 years ago at pony club and this was followed by an apprenticeship, which soon transformed him into the winner of 441 races in Hong Kong and the earner of two Tony Cruz Awards (2016/17 & 2017/18) as the season’s leading homegrown jockey.

“It’s a long time ago. Of course, it’s one of the best days and I still remember coming back and all of the fans were cheering. It was a good feeling,” Leung said.

That success came at just his second LONGINES HKIR ride. The 35-year-old has had five more since then and will be two-pronged for the third time at the HK$118 million showpiece with Encountered in the HK$32 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and Money Catcher in the HK$36 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

Encountered was Leung’s first Group race victory in two years, saving ground along the rail to land the HK$4.2 million G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) in November.

“He’s good. He’s had good draws recently, so he’s always in a good position. This time it will depend on the draw, he can be quite handy and positive, so hopefully we can follow the right horse and keep going,” Leung said.

Encountered scores his first Group 3 win under Derek Leung.
Encountered scores his first Group 3 win under Derek Leung.

Encountered – trained by Manfred Man – has continued to raise the bar across his 19-start career in Hong Kong, earning victories in each grade ranging from Class 3 up to Group 3.

“He’s much better mentally this season, I had to teach him to relax last season. This season you can ask a bit more from him, he does whatever I want and lately the inside draws have been good for him,” Leung said.

Leung has a sizzling record aboard the 114-rater. He’s ridden the Irish-bred four-year-old to four wins from six pairings, while the duo also finished a half-length second to California Spangle in the HK$5.35 million G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) in October.

This will be Encountered’s first Group 1 attempt when he faces the likes of Golden Sixty, California Spangle, Beauty Eternal, Namur, Serifos, Cairo and Voyage Bubble.

“It’s the right time to test him at this level. Because he’s had a couple of good runs, some time off, he’s fresh and he’s feeling good. The draw will be a big help against these horses. I can’t wait to see how he performs,” Leung said.

Twice Group 1-placed, Money Catcher finished third behind Romantic Warrior in the 2022 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup. He returns for his fourth run this term after placing third in the HK$5.35 million G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) last start.

“He’s quite one-paced. It just depends whether he can dictate the pace and Champion Dragon should go forward too, so it depends on the draw. He’s honest, he keeps running and every time in a big race he doesn’t stop,” Leung said.

A regular on-pacer, Money Catcher – trained by Frankie Lor – has mostly competed in Hong Kong racing’s upper grades, where he has been a consistent performer. His record reads for two wins, five seconds and seven thirds from 24 runs in the city.

“Romantic Warrior and the Japanese horses make it a tough race but he is fit and well – he will be good,” Leung said.

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