Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Declan Schuster
Derek Leung quashed any stamina queries regarding Reliable Team at Sha Tin this morning (30 November) as the grey prepares to take on a collection of quality opponents from Japan, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Hong Kong in the HK$20 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) on Sunday, 12 December.
“There’s no doubt he can handle it, I think he can even go to 3000 metres - the 2400 (metres) is no problem for him,” Leung said.
The six-year-old rises to 2400m for the second time after finishing a close-up third to Butterfield in the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap last season, however this time he does so for his first try at G1 level against a tidy group of overseas raiders.
“I think he’s a stayer and when he relaxes in the race I think he can get further - it depends on the pace in the race but if it’s suitable he should still run well,” Leung said of the seven-time winning son of Reliable Man.
Dictating a slow tempo to upstage his better credentialed rivals, Leung and Reliable Team staved off six others to record a make-all victory in the HK$4.75 million G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) on 21 November at odds of 16/1.
“We were lucky, we controlled the pace and that’s how we won, I don’t mind if we’re able to do it again on the big day but it depends on the draw and the pace,” Leung said.
On Sunday week, Leung is also preparing to partner More Than This in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) for trainer Danny Shum.
“He’ll be better second-up, he ran ok first-up but the pace was against him, it was too slow and that’s why he didn’t perform but hopefully on the big day the pace is on which will be much better for him,” Leung described.
Upon resumption in the G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m), More Than This finished a fair fourth behind Golden Sixty - a horse he pushed to finish within a head of in April’s G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m).
Looking towards Wednesday’s (1 December) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley, Leung is readying for four rides as he looks to enhance his haul of 11 wins this term.
The 33-year-old takes the mount on Showina in the first section of the Class 4 Albatross Handicap (1200m) for trainer Chris So.
“He’s been better and better, he has a breathing problem and he has bled before, so that’s why we didn’t want to rush him in the beginning and last time we had an outside draw, so we didn’t rush him by riding him at the rear and he finished very strong.
“This time from a better barrier - I still haven’t discussed it with Chris - but we don’t want to rush him too much, so if he can use his natural speed to go to the front that would be good, if not we’ll run home and let him finish strong,” Leung said.
The four-year-old by Showcasing is a one-time winner in Hong Kong from six starts.
“You can see last start he was able to carry top weight and he still ran home strong so I don’t think the big weight works against him too much, it just depends on where he slots in,” Leung said of the New Zealand-bred who steps away from gate six with 133lb assigned.
Saddling nearly half the field in the opener tomorrow night, trainer Paul O’Sullivan is hopeful of a positive outcome in the Class 4 Frigatebird Handicap (2200m), the fixture’s opening race.
“I have three in it but there’s still no guarantee of winning it,” O’Sullivan said.
Champion Pal (133lb), Victorious Seeker (131lb) and Kungfumaster Panda (121lb) represent the 11-time champion trainer of New Zealand.
“He’s (Victorious Seeker) racing in his best form and I think he saves his best for Happy Valley, he’s handicapped up to his peak, he hasn’t won off this mark before but he is racing well,” the 61-year-old said.
“He’s extremely one-paced and when you’re one-paced there’s only one option - the 2200 (metres) is your only option,” he added. A last-start winner, the six-year-old steps away from gate five with Derek Leung engaged.
The feature race tomorrow evening is the Class 4 Hong Kong Golf Club Centenary Cup Handicap (1200m) with 12 runners going to post, including A Smile Like Yours (132lb), Prance Dragon (130lb) and Wins All (125lb).
Wins All returns first-up for Chris So with Zac Purton engaged. Last season, the Testa Rossa gelding won at his resumption by two lengths over 1000m at the city circuit.
Happy Valley’s nine-race fixture tomorrow night (Wednesday, 1 December) commences at 6.45pm.