Derek Leung guides the Kiwi-bred Beauty Generation to victory in the Hong Kong Mile. Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The story might have been about the horse, the owner or the trainer, but the tale of the HK$23 million Longines Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin is rightly all about one man – winning jockey Derek Leung.
The 29-year-old claimed his first Group One 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.
He ably guided the John Moore-trained and Patrick Kwok-owned Beauty Generation to an all-the-way one-length victory in the day’s third feature.
Rarely has a win been so well-received. Such is the popularity of the man who could boast just two Group Three 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 450 (metres) 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, who sits fifth on the jockeys’ premiership table in his most prominent season to date, had every confidence in the five-year-old New Zealand-bred son of Road To Rock, returned an 8.4 chance.
“We began the season winning a Group Three (Celebration Cup) and I knew he was a Group One horse and today we did it, he proved it,” he said.
The win was trainer Moore’s seventh Hong Kong International Races win and his third in the Mile. It was a second successive win in the race for owner Patrick Kwok after last year’s win with Beauty Only, whom he races with his mother Eleanor Kwok. Beauty Only was seventh today.
It was Hong Kong’s 11th win in the 12 years since 2006 and the 10th winner, in that period, to progress from the Jockey Club Mile. Beauty Generation is the 14th Hong Kong-trained winner since the race was accorded Group One status in 2000.
Moore said the win was “no surprise” to the stable. “He’s done everything right from day one, this horse. We saw he was a little hampered in the run last time but today he had the gun run and was able to dictate the terms of the race which always looked a possibility.
“We tried him over more ground last season and he ran well, but he starts to grind a bit at the longer trips. We put some speed into him and he has a turn of foot at the mile (1600 metres). He’s run so well today.”
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.
Beauty Generation was bred by Nearco Stud, and sold at Karaka for $60,000. He was a Group One placegetter in Australia under his previous name Montaigne.