Returning Leung looking to Spark his season after lengthy ban

Pingwu Spark is on course for Sunday’s Jockey Club Mile. Source: Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Friends reunited is the theme for Derek Leung’s return to action at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 14 November) and the dual Tony Cruz Award winner for leading home-grown rider is aiming to get back on track swiftly ahead of a significant weekend date in Sunday’s G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile.

Leung made a reasonable start to the campaign with five winners and thought number six was on the board when Michael Freedman’s Endearing passed the post first at Sha Tin on 7 October.

The stewards had different ideas – demoting Endearing and hitting his rider with a six-meeting improper riding ban – and Leung heads to the city track on a losing run of 48 as his old ally Turin Redstar takes on Red Warrior in the night’s finale, the Class 2 Tokyo Handicap (1650m).

“Maybe this should be called my welcome back party,” he joked. “I thought the ban was hard but that is past now and it’s time to try and catch up some winners.

“I’ve won twice on Turin Redstar and I know him very well. It’s not going to be easy from this mark (90) but he’s consistent and very fit so we will give it our best again.”

Leung’s current position contrasts sharply with mid-November last year, when he was riding a wave of success which eventually carried him to victory in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile aboard Beauty Generation.

Loyalty to Pingwu Spark may have played some part in the eventual break-up of that partnership, and, if so, Benno Yung’s giant grey has the chance to repay Leung’s faith when he goes in against the world’s highest rated specialist turf miler for the fourth time this Sunday.

Beauty Generation has finished ahead of Pingwu Spark in two of their three previous head to heads but Leung feels increased fitness and more luck with the draw can help this time.

“Pingwu Spark always seems to get a high draw in the good races and that hasn’t helped, but he’s getting fitter now and his latest trial was much better,” he said.

“I think he will improve again after Sunday’s race going into the Hong Kong Mile – just like most of the other good horses – but he’s feeling sharper now and I hope he’s coming back to his best.”

The BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile is one of three features on Sunday, alongside the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) and the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).