Snow Storm , who only had his first race start in March of this year, was looking a doubtful contender given his rating, which had climbed from a mark of 38 to 59 after winning three of his four starts.
The gelding missed the cut for the Macau Guineas, leaving Lau no option but to run him in Class 3 to lift his rating. His latest victory gave him four straight wins from his five starts, and elevated him to a mark of 67 points, which was barely enough to make the grade for the Blue Riband event.
The late start in racing for Snow Strom was not by design, with Lau admitting the horse has been a difficult proposition to get as far as he has this soon.
"We spent plenty of time on him in New Zealand with six trials over a long period; then he arrived in Macau in August last year. He is a very quirky horse to train, he gets very wound up and it took me a long while to relax him, and eventually we got him to the races."
"He is still a very immature horse and it is a big ask to say he can win a Derby given what his done so far; but I feel he has a lot of potential and is hitting his straps at the right time. I think he will run a strong 1800, and I could not be happier with him the way he is going into Sunday's race." Lau said.
With rain forecast for most of the week, Lau like most others is hoping that by the weekend conditions are on the improve.
"Yes, I'd prefer a good surface like most people are hoping for, that makes it a level playing field. If it comes up heavy, well then it becomes just a guessing game.'
Lau won his first Derby with The Alfonso in 2015 and followed that up with Sacred Man in 2017. Sacred Capital made it three in 2019 with Sacred Magnate's win last season giving him four victories out of the last six running's of the Derby.
In what is also an amazing achievement Snow Storms owner Mr. Eric Chen Ching Lung, is also shooting for his fifth Derby victory. Mr. Chen was part owner of The Alfonso, Sacred Man and Sacred Capital with Mr. Dato K S Yap. Both Sacred Magnate and Snow Storm are owned outright by Chen.
Smith Aiming to Go One Better
In any other season Wayne Smith's Star Of Yiu Cheung would have been hailed the Champion of the year. Last season the imposing looking son of Casino Prince (Aus) won six races from his 10 starts and ran in the quinella spot on the other six occasions, with nearly all his defeats coming by way of a photo finish.
That all sounds like a remarkable achievement for a first season trainer, and it was; however, success did not come without its share of frustration. Star Of Yiu Cheung was beaten a short head by Winnie's Star in the Derby Trial, then was beaten a half-length in the Guineas by Hostwin Saturn, then followed the biggest crush of all, when the gelding was beaten a short head in the last stride by Sacred Magnate in the Derby.
To rub more salt into the wound, four weeks later Star Of Yiu Cheung g was beaten a nose in the last stride in the Macau Gold Cup by Sacred Capital.
Smith is back this year looking to go one better, when he saddles up both Yiucheung Champion and Ocean Warrior in Sundays Derby.
Smith like Joe Lau, had an anxious wait to see if Yiucheung Champion and Ocean Warrior would gain a run, with Yiucheung Champion scraping in at number 12 and Ocean Warrior number 13.
Yiucheung Champion an impressive looking son of Not A Single Doubt (Aus), is shaping as Smiths main contender and like Lau's Snow Storm is also a late beginner for the race.
"He only had his first run for me in February on the sand and was well beaten. We had quite a few issues that we had to work through before he finally put it all together with a good win over 1800 metres in April." Smith said.
"I've always thought he was an ideal Derby type; his two runs since in the Derby Trial and the Guineas have backed that up. He didn't have much luck in either race and was only beaten three- and three-quarter lengths in the Derby Trial, and five lengths in the Guineas on the heavy track."
Smith is also confident the Ocean Warrior will give a good account of himself in Sunday's race.
"His only run at 1800 metres he was three deep a lot of the trip with no cover, and only finished three and a half lengths away from Circuit Miles, who is going to run one of the favorites on Sunday."
It's not just Derby revenge that Smith is seeking over Joe Lau on Sunday; he is looking to even the score with Sacred Capital and Star Of Yiu Cheung in the Group 1 Chairman's Challenge Cup over 1200 metres, a race that he won himself as a jockey in 2018 on Felizmaster.
Sacred Capital won the race last year, whilst Star Of Yiu Cheung is coming off his dazzling six and a half-length track record win at the distance in May in 1.07.2
"He is in great shape going really well. I'll give both him and Yiucheung Champion a hit out on the grass in the morning and I've got to say I could not be happier with them both."
Beauty Bolt and City Gold from the Stanley Chin yard will carry the bulk of the punter's money in Sundays Derby, with Chin declaring that he is in a perfect situation for the race.
"Could not be happier, I am very lucky that I have two hands going into the race. City Gold will love the 1800 and if its wet again he will be favorite. If it comes up a good track then Beauty Bolt will be the one to beat."
Chin's third runner Cherry Road would need a good track to perform at his best, but does look at little out of his depth.
Nick Moore is another that could not be more pleased with both his charges Circuit Miles and Hostwin Achilles , and has taken some hard lessons from last year's Derby in an effort to go one better this year.
"I can't fault either of them for Sunday's race."
"Circuit Miles will be right at his peak come Sunday. I learnt from last year with Hostwin Saturn that I had him at his peak him too early when he won the Guineas. By Derby Day he was just a little over the top. That was my first year and I've learnt from that." Moore said.
Moore like Stanley Chin has an each way bet in the Derby with Circuit Miles no doubt better on top of the ground, whereas Hostwin Achilles is adept on both good and heavy ground.
"Really would like a good track it's better for Circuit Miles, Hostwin Achilles it seems just handles anything."
"The 1800 is no doubt a question mark with Hostwin Achilles being by Deep Field. That said the mare Allegra has thrown winners up to 1600 metres."
Moore has been pleasantly surprised in the turnaround with Hostwin Achilles from a highly strung nervous sprinter to a Derby hopeful.
"His win in the Derby Trial when he beat Circuit Miles, we thought might have been just pure luck, but he backed that up on the heavy track in the Guineas, and was only caught late by City Gold with Circuit Miles in third."
"Whatever I have thrown at him he has copped it, and he has learnt to relax more in his work. He has been a real surprise packet and he just might get a good 1800 metres.'
Another horse the deserves a special mention for Sunday's Derby is the Patrick Lee trained Partner's Fortune.
The son of Better Than Ready (Aus) endured a tough run deep in the Derby Trial to wind up in eighth place, but only beaten just over four lengths.
Connections decided to by-pass the Guineas, instead running him in the Class 2 over 1500 metres on the same day. It was a decision they were left lamenting, with Partner's Fortune running out an easy winner in one full second quicker on the heavy track, then City Gold in the Guineas which was the race earlier.
The 1800 metres of the Derby is another matter, that said Partner's Fortune was strong at the end of the 1500, and can handle any type of track condition.