Marcus nearer title glory after treble
THERE was no stopping Basil Marcus as he beat his inexorable path to his fourth jockeys' title with a 54-1 treble at Happy Valley yesterday.
The never-say-die South African, whose gritty and pugnacious riding style plus astute tactical judgment is so well honed to racing Hong Kong style, scored for three different trainers pointing to another powerful weapon in his riding armoury - diligence.
Marcus never stops studying the form and is one of the first on the phone searching for rides and one of the last to leave trackwork in the mornings in that same, relentless quest for winners.
He took the opener with Always Luck for his first boss, Lam Hung-fie, the third on Pleasant Win for his second retaining trainer, David Hill, and the sixth on Zakarad for his current employer, Ivan Allan.
Marcus has now ridden 42 winners this season and the jockey standings make very interesting reading indeed.
He is fully 21 winners clear of his nearest pursuer, Tony Cruz, who is currently in California at the start of a spell with Neil Drysdale as he embarks on his training career.
Of those still licensed to ride permanently in the territory, the French ace Eric Legrix is the closest to Marcus.
But he is fully 22 winners behind and doesn't have any realistic hope of making up the leeway. It is just a question of by how far Marcus is going to clinch his fourth title.
In a racing jurisdiction as competitive as Hong Kong, such hegemony over such a period of time can only be marvelled at. As far as this campaign is concerned, to be so far clear with only half the season completed is extraordinary.
Yesterday Marcus was his usual astute self in the opener as he refused to commit Always Luck to a speed battle as the Lawrie Fownes' pair, Jade Signet and Chip-In, set the pace.
Marcus preferred to bide his time in behind the leaders before producing Always Luck to lead halfway down the home straight. Marcus has a fine record riding for Lam and is always worth a second glance when he jumps aboard his horses.
'He's done me proud over the years I've been here and I'll always remember it was Ah-fie who brought me out here in the first place,' said a beaming Marcus after the last.
As Marcus sent Pleasant Win to the front halfway down the back straight in the third there were those of us who thought he'd gone too soon in a 2,200-metre event which appeared to be unfolding at a helter-skelter pace - especially as Pleasant Win was blinkered for the first time and could also be a doubt at the trip. But Marcus so rarely makes a wrong move through a race and yet again his judgment was spot on as Pleasant Win kept galloping and galloping for a thoroughly honest 11/4 lengths win from So Easy.
Hill said: 'I quite fancied Pleasant Win but full marks to Basil as he showed great initiative to send him to the front when he did. I hadn't expected him to take it up quite so soon but it really paid off as this is a horse who will stay all day.' Allan and owner and Jockey Club Steward Alan Li received the perfect good omen for today's eagerly awaited debut in the territory of the Group One placed Citadeed when Zakarad carried Li's red silks with the green and black hooped sleeves to victory in the sixth.