Mission Tycoon’s career trajectory this term has been nothing short of remarkable and jockey Derek Leung knows it. On Sunday (17 March), he will ride the Frankie Lor-trained galloper in the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“There’s no doubt his improvement has been impressive,” said the rider, who guided the Australian-bred to a shock all-the-way win in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) last month, at odds of 91/1.
Mission Tycoon has, in the space of three months, morphed from a promising Class 2 sprinter to a serious Derby candidate. Leung puts the credit for that transformation squarely at Lor’s door.
“Frankie has done a very good job with the horse,” he said. “He gave him a break early this season so he came back to racing a bit late and that was good for him, it gave him time to grow up and mature.”
Mission Tycoon won one of four races in his debut campaign but did not step out this season until December. That was on the dirt track, over 1200m, and he finished third. He filled the same sport over the same trip on turf on New Year’s Day, and then placed 10th in a 1400m Class 2: Hardly the profile of a horse rolling towards a Derby.
Then, along came Leung and the Hong Kong Classic Mile – the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“Before that, we didn’t even think he could go a mile,” Leung admitted.