Harry Troy, Macau Jockey Club
Joe Lau reigns as Macau’s Derby King after Sacred Magnate produced a brilliant finish under Stephane Ladjadj to win the 29th running of the SJM Macau Derby at the Taipa racetrack on Sunday.
Given a lovely ride by Frenchman Ladjadj, Sacred Magnate powered home once into space to nab race favorite Star Of Yiu Cheung (Peter Ho) right on the wire to win by a short head, with Hostwin Epanoui (Fausto Henrique) three quarters of a length away in third. Lau’s other Derby runner Crown Of Gold ran on well for fourth spot only two lengths away.
Lau has now won four of the last six Macau Derbies and went into the race quietly confident about the chances of both his runners, declaring in a pre race interview that Sacred Magnate was the dark horse in the field.
“That was a great win just wonderful and a lovely ride by Stephane (Ladjadj). “ Lau said.
“We bought him especially for the Derby last year after he had run a very good race in the C S Hayes a Group 3 at Flemington. He has taken awhile to acclimatize here with the heat and he has not had much luck in his three runs. “
“In saying that I was very happy with his last run in the Guineas as he ran on nicely for fourth only one and a half lengths away, but he was the forgotten horse by many today.”
“Crown of Gold my other runner went very well also, he had won four races straight before today and was the more fancied in the betting; he ran well to get fourth only beaten two lengths in a what was a muddling run race.”
Lau paid tribute to his staff after the race describing the win as a real team effort.
“Not just this Derby but all my Derbies ,at the end of the day it’s a real team effort from my Assistant Trainer Wil Heffernan to our riding boys, our farrier and the mafoo’s, everyone plays their part.
Sacred Magnate opened at 35/1 in the betting in contrast to stablemate Crown Of Gold who was the early 3/1 favorite. At the off Lau’s stable supporters had trimmed his odds down to 16/1.
Not many owners worldwide can boast four Derby victories to their credit however owner Mr. Eric Chen Ching Lung can do just that. The win by Sacred Magnate was his fourth Derby victory having been a part owner in Lau’s previous Derby winners, firstly The Alfonso in 2015, Sacred Man 2017 and Sacred Capital in 2019. Those three horses he raced in partnership with Dato K S Yap. Sacred Magnate was originally raced by the duo but recently Mr Chen Ching Lung acquired full ownership of the gelding.
It’s been a wonderful achievement for Eric Chen and eclipses owner Mr Choy Ching Moon’s record of three Derby wins with Documentary 2004, Doppio 2005 and St. Moritz in 2006.
Joe Lau also won Sundays other feature race the Chairman Memorial Cup over 1200 metres with his stable star Sacred Capital, giving him his sixth victory in the time honored event.
Ridden by Peter Ho, Sacred Capital overcame a tardy beginning and being forced very wide on the home turn, to storm home right over the opposition and win running away by one and quarter lengths over Fortune Treasure (Shogo Nakano), with Bring Me Speed (Peter Lao)a neck away in third.
The Chairman Memorial was formerly the Chairman’s Challenge Cup but was renamed this year in honor of the founder of the MJC the late Dr. Stanley Ho who passed away in May.
“When I seen they had renamed the race I said to myself I just have to win this race in honor of the great man Dr. Ho, he put the Club on the map and loved his horse racing.” Lau said.
Lau won his first Chairman’s Cup back in 1999 with Polish Warrior when the race was run over 1500 metres. Crowns Gift was his second winner in 2004 again at the 1500 metres trip before the race distance was changed to 1200 metres. Crown’s Master was his next winner in 2007, and again it was Crown’s Master in 2009 followed by Sacred Hustler in 2015, with Sacred Capital making six victories for Lau on Sunday.
Malaysian born Lau has long been considered the doyen of Macau’s trainers and has won a total of 713 races in the enclave. His list of feature race wins is too numerous to mention, but it’s fair to say that he has won pretty much every feature event the Club has to offer.
It’s not too bad for young man that arrived in Macau in 1989 with just $1000 Hong Kong dollars in his pocket that he borrowed from a friend. A former jockey in Malaysia, Lau commenced work as a riding boy in the Jockey Club before becoming an Assistant Trainer to Henry Lee. He was first licensed as a trainer in 1993.