Marcus vows to keep up fight for the title
HE won't be champion this season but he's going all the way to the wire.
Basil Marcus, the top jockey for the past three campaigns, rode a treble at last night's Sha Tin meeting on Make Merry and Sky Coast in the third and seventh events for local handler Stephen Leung either side of a first-up win on All Thrills for his retaining trainer Ivan Allan.
Marcus was only denied a four-timer by a head when his mount Polygain just failed to catch Fortune World in the fourth. Another stride and he would have prevailed.
The treble took Marcus through the 50 barrier for the season and on to the 52 mark.
It also left him seven behind Tony Cruz and typically the never-say-die South African rider came out of the weighing room in an ebullient but determined mood.
'I won't say I'm beaten until it's impossible for me to catch Tony,' Marcus smiled.
Marcus, of course, doesn't have any kind of realistic chance of making up the leeway with just 15 races left before the curtain comes down next Sunday.
But it's not in his nature to admit defeat, as his display showed last night. He wasn't travelling comfortably in the early and middle stages of the third event on Make Merry but came good in the straight, running down the Tony Cruz-ridden 2-1 favourite Faisca in the final 100 metres.
Faisca battled on bravely to hold second from Blue And Gold who was running a much better race.
Sky Coast, taking Leung to 25 winners in a tremendous second season with a trainer's licence, had 'a Basil Marcus special' written all over him in the seventh race.
Marcus excels in these small fields and while he couldn't lead the pace-setting Bounty, he took a nice sit in second and then rallied his mount to regain the lead from veteran handicapper Conticasta who had seemed the winner when sweeping to the front 200 metres out.
It may have been joy for Marcus and Leung but it was a bitter moment for Kenny Kam who was probably witnessing his last potential Hong Kong winner as a trainer.
Conticasta has been a faithful servant to the yard but he couldn't quite give his handler one last winner before his licence is not renewed at the end of the campaign.
Just Thrills had caught the eye in his work leading into last night's fifth and duly obliged by an emphatic 13/4 lengths from Super Bingo II who was not pressed to hold second as Royal Pride finished on well for third.
Just Thrills did not especially impress on looks but he is the right type for Hong Kong in that he was lightly raced in Australia and is by the boom sire, Danehill. He didn't beat much last night but will almost certainly improve and hold his own in Class Two next season.
Greg Childs rode a copybook race to get Wong Tang-ping's heavily-backed Intermac Joker home a fairly cosy winner from Fun And Smile and Racing Ace in the night's final event.
The 9-2 chance was win number 15 for Childs during prolific three-month stint.
Intermac Joker was Ping's 42nd winner of by far his best season, leaving him one behind Allan and in fourth position in the trainer standings dominated late on by champion-elect John Moore.