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.