Victor The Winner tunes up for Takamatsunomiya Kinen bid

Victor The Winner
Victor The Winner is a seven-time winner in Hong Kong.

Derek Leung is excited to test his skills overseas again.

The 35-year-old gets the opportunity in the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) on March 24 at Chukyo when Victor The Winner ships east to Japan for trainer Danny Shum.

“It’s a great opportunity and it’s come at the right time. The horse is fit and well, it’s just that it’s a left-turning course and the pace could be different. I’ll do more homework and trust the horse,” Leung said.

Victor The Winner finished first on Tuesday morning at Sha Tin ahead of his planned departure next Tuesday, clocking 57.92s over 1000m on turf as he had his patience tested with a different set of racing manners.

“It was good. We trialled to keep his fitness up and we are bit concerned in Japan if someone tries to lead and go crazy in front, so we just wanted to see him sit behind and see how he would respond.

“He was very lucky, one horse (Ka Ying Warrior) went forward this morning and we tried to let him find cover. He didn’t like the kickback at first, it shocked him, but then he dropped his head, balanced up and went smoothly. He kept his momentum, he’s fit and he’s well,” Leung said.

Leung is the winner of almost 450 races in Hong Kong. He’s a two-time Tony Cruz Award recipient (2016/17 & 2017/18). His most recent campaigns abroad in 2018 saw him finish second in South Korea, while in Dubai he was unseated at the start.

“I’ve ridden in Korea, Dubai, New Zealand, France, England and Australia. During COVID we couldn’t leave, so it’s quite exciting and it’s a good time go. He’s a fit horse, a Group 1 winner, straightforward and it depends on the conditions on the day,” Leung said.

The Toronado gelding won the HK$13 million Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) from the front with Leung last month. The speedster will skip Sunday’s HK$13 million Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin.

“He’s not only a leader. Everyone says if someone passes him, he will stop but with cover, he loves to chase. I’m not concerned if he gets in the box seat, he just needs to travel smooth,” Leung said.

Aerovelocity is the only winner for Hong Kong in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, taking the contest in 2015 for jockey Zac Purton and former trainer Paul O’Sullivan.

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