Marcus turns up the pressure
'HE'S got to keep going as I won't be stopping,' was the fighting talk from triple defending champion jockey Basil Marcus after Saturday's Sha Tin meeting which saw him slip five behind Tony Cruz in the race for this season's coveted title. The pugnacious South African gets another chance to have a crack at Cruz, who is in such brilliant form, at tomorrow night's Sha Tin meeting.
Marcus will have to do something quickly as there are only six meetings left before the curtain comes down but he has a number of good chances, not least the Wong Tang-ping-trained Everwell Times in the opening event on the card. It would have been inconceivable for Cruz not to have picked up this kind of ride from Ping in years gone by, but their special friendship is not what it once was and that man Marcus doesn't miss a trick when it comes to jumping on horses who are poised to hit form.
Everwell Times had very solid form earlier in the season before a setback sidelined him for the middle part of the campaign. But he returned to run a very good third to Royal Horse over a mile at Sha Tin when almost certainly needing the run. The merit of that performance was not lost on Marcus who has snapped up the ride and must have every chance of reversing the form with Royal Horse in an enthralling head-to-head with Cruz. Yesterday, Everwell Times came through a smooth piece in pleasing fashion with stablemate Top Performance.
They came through 1,200 metres in a useful one minute and 17.7 seconds with Everwell Times very fresh down the back straight where Marcus had to grab hold of him to get him to settle down and relax. This gallop follows two very solid efforts last week from Everwell Times who appears to have been set specifically for tomorrow night's opening event by Ping. Not that Royal Horse has stood still since his convincing defeat of Splendid Feeling and Everwell Times last time out.
He has been working as well as ever and was a good trial winner on Friday morning. Marcus also has a top chance in the night's final event on Ivan Allan's last-start straight 1,000-metre winner, Regal Ridge. The Irish import has progressed well since that determined success from Pine Fame and looked spot on yesterday morning as he worked with a fast final 400 metres with Mighty Mighty who is also on top of his game. They clocked a smart 22.8 seconds. Yet again the major stumbling block to Marcus looks to be Cruz as their fierce but friendly rivalry provides for an exciting denouement to the season. Cruz rides Millennium Reigns for the in-form John Moore.
Millennium Reigns was nothing short of a flop on his first start for the Moore camp, but he does appear to have gone much better since.
He was a classy winner of a recent trial for instance and looked on good terms with himself yesterday as he came through his jump out from the barriers in fine style. It is worth remembering that Hainan Dragon, another sprinter, did nothing on his first start after joining Moore and then came out and simply bolted in.
It is just possible that Millennium Reigns could do the same. Peter Ng Bik-kuen's veteran stayer, South China's King, appears to have come back to something like his old form and should be kept safe in the second. He would relish anymore rain. Allan and Marcus combine for a likely improver in the third in Perfect Smile, but again watch out for Cruz whose mount Happy Cheers is appreciably fitter than last time.
Patrick Biancone's Big Mac is also on the upgrade and will be hard to beat. Moore has Colours Hero back to near his best for the fifth.
He appears to have set him for the race while David Oughton's Golden Prosperity is fitter than last time when a creditable fourth Deauville.
Expect improvement, too, from Allan's Tycoon.