Marcus proves he's still king of the Valley
INDOMITABLE Basil Marcus was back at his brilliant best with a 252-1 treble at Happy Valley yesterday buoying his spirits for the International week ahead.
The former triple champion jockey from South Africa and his retaining trainer Ivan Allan have outstanding chances in the Cup with Mr Vitality and a weakened Vase with Privilege.
And yesterday Marcus put his recent crashing fall from California Gold well and truly behind him with convincing successes in the opening two events on the Lam Hung-fie-trained Always Luck and Tony P. H. Chan's Fortune Winner before needing all his strength and balance in the last to get Allan's Mr Judge home by a short head after a stirring scrap with Seven Glory from 300 metres out.
You don't become a dominant rider in Hong Kong by resting on your laurels, though, and Marcus' first thoughts as he emerged from the weighing-room were: 'It may have been three but it should have been four.' Marcus was referring to his mount Drifting Away who ran on strongly to finish second to Assegai in the feature Po Leung Kuk Centenary Cup.
Marcus added: 'He needed a faster pace and I was then boxed in at a crucial stage by All Good. 'Danny [Lee] kept me in all the way round the turn when I was really wanting to get out to start winding my horse up for his finish.' It was just like old times in yesterday's opening event with Marcus teaming up with Lam, the trainer who originally brought him to the territory for the start of the 1990-91 campaign.
It was also at the Valley that Marcus notched his first Hong Kong success, when making virtually all on Lam's Craig's Dragon and he's been repeating the tactics ever since. Yesterday he had Always Luck up on the speed throughout before kicking clear of All Smart Wins to score by 21/2 lengths with Golden Gamble third past the post.
The second and third placings were then rightly reversed by the race-meeting stewards as All Smart Wins tightened Golden Gamble on the home bend causing him to lose significantly more ground than the neck he finished behind All Smart Wins.
'I thought Always Luck had a great chance as he was a little bit unlucky when I was second on him to Esteemed at the beginning of the season,' Marcus said. 'He was just tightened up in the run that day and this was an easier race.' Marcus was surprised that Fortune Winner was able to win the second event at all, yet alone as easily as he did.
But then the Chan stable is really flying. This was his 13th winner of the campaign and left Chan in a clear second in the standings, three behind Allan. 'I was instructed to try and sit third or fourth just behind the pace but we jumped straight to the front and had such a nice, soft lead that there was no point dragging him back,' said Marcus. But the last was a different kettle of fish as Marcus turned for home on Mr Judge with debut Club Jockey Richard Quinn stalking him on John Moore's Seven Glory who had enjoyed the perfect trail in behind the speed.
'When I felt the other horse shy away when he started to come under full pressure I thought we could hold on,' said Marcus who felt that Mr Judge was absolutely spot on for yesterday's mile event in which the fancied Mazal had no luck in running. The race-meeting stewards were again spot on in their judgment when allowing Red Wine to keep the seventh event after he'd hampered third-placed Alacrity - but not by enough to say Alacrity would, beyond reasonable doubt, have won.