Derek Leung has been in fine form recently with five wins from the last three race meetings and this Wednesday (17 February) at Happy Valley he is looking to maintain his momentum with a full book of nine rides as he eyes a new personal best.
“I will do my best (to beating his personal best), why not? The horses that I am riding and the new horses coming through have a good future, I think I will do even better in the second half of the season – it’s my target to set a new personal best,” Leung said.
Leung bagged a treble three meetings ago at Sha Tin and then added two more, and now with 22 wins to his name and 42 race meetings left in the season, he finds himself on track to not only eclipse last season’s total of 29 wins but also with a chance at bettering his personal best score of 37 he notched through the 2017/18 racing season.
“This season I have the horses, I’m getting the chances from a broad range of stables and they have quite decent chances – I just need to perform and I’m sure the horses will keep coming, this season is a great opportunity to break my record and do even better,” Leung said.
Leung’s eight wins since Sunday, 17 January is topped by only championship leading jockey Joao Moreira.
“My confidence has grown – I study the form extensively and the trainers trust me so I have more freedom in races, while they tell me the instructions they still have the trust and belief in me to make a choice in the race, sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong, but I have the confidence to do it and try it,” Leung said.
Among Leung’s nine rides this Wednesday is a renewed partnership with the Peter Ho-trained Wood On Fire in the first section of the Class 4 Mut Wah Handicap (1200m).
“In the beginning he was very immature in the mornings and at the races, now he’s getting better and better, he always used to make mistakes and he needed everything to go right for him before.
“He’s a lot smoother now in the beginning and in the run, he’s not as keen and with the racing he’s improved a lot,” Leung said.
Leung is looking to guide the New Zealand-bred gelding to his third win, having partnered the bay in both of his most recent two wins.
Leung also partners Ares in the first section of the Class 3 Hip Wo Handicap (1200m) as well as four-time victor Murray’s Partners in the Class 3 Hung To Handicap (2200m).
“The trainers and owners are happy keeping me on, I know there’s a few more winners to come from Paul O’Sullivan, Ricky Yiu, Peter Ho, Dennis Yip and all of the trainers – I owe thanks to all of them for their support this season,” he added.
Looking ahead to Sha Tin this Sunday, 21 February, Leung will pair with Delightful Laos in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Time Warp in the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and More Than This in the Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
Maldives to atone for Purton
Zac Purton is hopeful that the David Hall-trained Maldives can atone for his wayward misfortune last start in this evening’s Class 4 Tsun Yip Handicap (1650m).
“It was disappointing – he threw the race away and hopefully he can atone for that,” Purton said.
The New Zealand-bred bay was a winner two starts ago under Purton but arguably cost himself the race at his most recent outing by shifting out severely in the straight to subsequently lose his momentum and finish third.
“He did a similar thing the start before but obviously to a lesser extent and that time I had the whip out so that I was able to coax him a long a little bit better,” Purton said.
“I was (lucky to stay on), for a stride there it looked like I was certainly going to come off but when he shifted he stopped so he came back underneath me a little – it is what it is, it could have ended up a little bit worse what it did,” he added.
The gelding steps away from gate two in tonight’s contest.
In-form Shum looks to keep on rolling
Danny Shum has proven to be one of the in-form handlers through 2021 having saddled 14 winners through the New Year – second to only John Size (17) – and this Wednesday at Happy Valley he has six chances on the card as he aims to continue his ascent up the championship rankings.
With 33 wins this term, Shum has charged into sixth place and among his entrants tonight is Smoothies who contests the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1650m). Jockey Chad Schofield is engaged from gate one.
“He ran well, it was good to see him return to a bit of form, we’ve drawn barrier one again and he should be able to control the race like he did last time, he fought on strongly for me last time,” Schofield said.
Fresh off a successful Sunday in the saddle with a win for two-time champion trainer David Hayes, Schofield – who turned 27 yesterday – heads to the city circuit with seven rides including Flying Mighty in the Class 3 Hung To Handicap (2200m).
“I think the trip is no issue – he’s a real stayer and he’s trialled well at Happy Valley before,” Schofield said.
The Australian-bred breaks from gate six against 11 opponents.
Wednesday’s (17 February) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the second section of the Class 4 Mut Wah Handicap (1200m).