Derek Leung Simply Brilliant
HK's top homegrown jockey kicks home a treble at Sha Tin with Gala Night, Smoothies and Simply Brilliant
Jockey Derek Leung capped a steely treble at Sha Tin on Saturday, when Simply Brilliant triumphed in the afternoon's feature, the Class 1 Lung Cheung Handicap, over 1,600m.
Leung left little to chance on the Frankie Lor-trained chestnut, a lesson learned from a luckless defeat the time before at Happy Valley.
On that occasion, the rider found himself trapped fence-side and then pocketed behind a wall of horses.
This time, he settled his mount in a perfect stalking spot for a centre-track rattle to the winning post.
"Last time, he ran very well, he was very honest but we got held up and he missed the kick - even at the winning-post, we didn't have room. That gave me confidence for today," said Leung.
"We sat two-off the rail this time because I wanted to make sure he had a clear run and when I asked him to let down, he gave me what we needed."
Simply Brilliant's unchecked run was enough to edge the Blake Shinn-ridden Harmony Victory by a head.
Encouraging and Fat Turtle were the next two across the line in a blanket finish. The winning time was 1min 33.67sec.
Lor was delighted to see his stalwart galloper earn a first win since he took the 2019 edition of the Group 3 January Cup Handicap over 1,800m.
The handler revealed that he had no hesitation in sticking with Leung.
"If he had got a clean run last time, he might have won. But this time, I just put Derek on again and he rode a very good race today," said the trainer.
Lor is now looking at the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy over 1,600m as a possible port of call for the Frankel gelding, whose performances in the past year include a fine third to Beauty Generation in the Group 1 Champions Mile over 1,600m.
"You can see his ability in his form," said Leung, who also scored on Gala Night in the Class 4 Tseuk Luk Handicap over 1800m on dirt and on Smoothies in section one of the Class 3 Sheung Hei Handicap over 1,400m.
"He's chased Beauty Generation in big races, so he's always had the quality, he's just older and, with this weight in this grade, it was ideal for him."
The three-timer was Leung's first such haul since the glorious afternoon of Oct 1, 2017, when he guided Beauty Generation to a front-running win in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap over 1,400m, a success that set the ball rolling on the subsequent champion's epic rise.
And, on the eve of BMW Hong Kong Derby week, with those days of Beauty Generation and a Group 1 win in the Longines Hong Kong Mile two years and more distant, Leung delivered a timely reminder of his talents.
"I always try my best and challenge myself," said Leung. "This week, all the pressure for the Derby is on Vincent Ho with Golden Sixty and we don't have any pressure."
The rider, 31, is set to partner Lor's Reliable Team in the "blue riband" in eight days' time, an outsider against his fellow Apprentice Jockeys' School Graduate's star mount, with Ho and Golden Sixty bidding to complete a perfect three-from-three in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
"My horse is a front-runner, so I'll try to help him finish strongly. I'll let him move forward and see what happens against Golden Sixty," said Leung, the two-time Tony Cruz Award winner (2017, 2018). - HKJC