Jockey Derek Leung’s win in the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Beloved Collection Handicap (1400m) on Sunday may not have held the same significance as his G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile success last weekend. Judging by the crowd reaction, though, Pingwu Spark’s against-the-odds triumph may have been just as popular to Hong Kong racing fans after the grey burst through to take the Sha Tin closer by a half-length, a win that seemed impossible early in the straight.
Derek Leung drives Pingwu Spark to the lead, ahead of Good Standing (Zac Purton), to win the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Beloved Collection Handicap.
Pingwu Spark (131lb), who tipped the scales at 1336lb – the most any Hong Kong-trained horse has weighed since October, 2010 – was sent out a 2.9 favourite to win his fourth race this season. The hulking grey enjoyed a perfect trail in the box-seat, with fellow giant Good Standing sitting directly to his outside.
Entering the stretch, though, Zac Purton seized the initiative aboard John Moore’s Good Standing. He pushed the Australian import up towards the lead, ensuring that Leung aboard Pingwu Spark was stuck in a pocket with nowhere to go passing the 300m.
“I couldn’t get properly clear until the 150m,” Leung said. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I just had to sit there and wait and trust that the gap would open later. Thankfully, it did, but my horse dashed even better than before. He surprised me a little bit, but he still has improvement in him – even when he hit the front, he wanted to look around a bit and was waiting for other horses to join him.”
Watching pensively from the weighing room was Benno Yung, Pingwu Spark’s trainer. He turned his face away from the screen when the Mastercraftsman five-year-old struck trouble and admitted to thinking he had “no chance” for most of the straight.
“I was so scared, I thought his chance had gone,” Yung said. “He’s such a big horse, he needs time to wind up. You can’t just expect him to sprint. I was very worried, but luckily it opened up. This horse keeps improving, that’s his best win yet I think.”
Yung says that he will likely wait another month before running Pingwu Spark again, with a race on 21 January looking a likely target.
“I will sit down and look at the programme,” he says. “I want to make sure that he doesn’t get to the Group races too quickly, I want to step him up gradually. I think there is a Class 2 for 105-rated horses next month over 1400m, that would be the next race if he is still eligible. He would be able to run in the Group 3 (Chinese Club Challenge Cup) over 1400m in a couple of weeks but I think that would be too soon.
“He’s the horse I’ve been waiting for,” Yung continued. “He’s a horse every trainer wants. I think he can continue to improve and so I want to be patient with him.”
Happy Agility (118lb) and Baba Mama (120lb) filled the placings, a half-length and a length behind the winner respectively, but most interest was in fourth-placed Good Standing (126lb). The Australian G2 winner lived up to Moore’s expectations and cemented his place in his trainer’s team heading towards the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which begins with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on 21 January.
“That was a good run,” Moore said. “Zac made his run a bit early to keep the grey in a pocket, and that was a good move I think. Had he been fit, the grey would have had a bit of competition in the final 50m. He’s another Derby horse, and I’ll give him another run – maybe on New Year’s Day, or the week after – and then he can head to the Classic Mile.”
Earlier, Moore unveiled the first of his contenders for the 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby when three-year-old Easy Go Easy Win saluted at his local debut in the Class 3 Lukfook Jewellery PT Bridal Collection Handicap (1200m). It was the middle leg of a treble for Joao Moreira, who scored his first win for Moore since Eagle Way’s G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) triumph in late April.
“We had an opinion of this horse in Australia, he ran well in three starts and we were planning on taking him up to the J J Atkins, a Group 1 for two-year-olds over 1600m, in June,” Moore said. “But I told John Sargent, who trained him down there, not to send him there, that he would be well-rated for Hong Kong and that he could put a few wins together at that mark.
“There’s still a lot of improvement there, he’s looking for further. I’m a big fan of the Savabeel and Pins nick, and I have a big opinion of this horse going forward. This is our first horse for Marces Lee, his son (Barry) owns this one but Marces has put a lot of faith in us and I’m grateful to win this for him. Today is the start of the new brigade coming onboard.”
Moreira earlier won on Almond Lee’s Proud Sky, while he brought up his three-timer on Danny Shum-trained Pick Number One.