Basil can make it look Easy
By ROBIN PARKE
FORM student Basil Marcus does not usually get on horses without a hope and his engagement for Easy Champ in the featured St George's Challenge Cup at Sha Tin today has significance. It has been a quiet season for local trainer Cheung Ting-pong, but Easy Champ represents a chance for him to add to his tally of five winners and the engagement of the busy and very effective Marcus is a guide to the solid chances of the horse. Easy Champ was ridden last time by trainer Cheung's useful apprentice Martin C.
K. Tsang and came home well over 1,800 metres to finish just under four lengths fourth to Sailing. Small Wonder, who re-opposes today, finished second by three-parts of a length to Sailing with Citiluck in third place. Small Wonder has drawn well for this Class Two, 1,900-metre event and with Darryll Holland aboard must come into calculations.
Much will depend on just how well suited Easy Champ will be to the extra distance, but he was running on so strongly last time that he must be taken to run it out well. On weights, there is little in it but a strong-finishing Easy Champ would have the scope to turn the tables on Small Wonder. French ace Eric Saint-Martin had an unexpectedly lean night at the Valley on Wednesday, but can certainly bounce back today and continue his excellent late season surge. He partners Drifting Away for Andy Leung Wai-tak and this proven stayer will be well supported to be involved in the finish of the 13-runner trophy race. And rightly so. Saint-Martin was aboard last time over 100 metres less in yielding ground when Drifting Away finished third to tearaway winner Mazal at Happy Valley. However, a better guide to his chances might be the race prior to that when he was a close-up fifth to Success Partners in the 2,000-metre P & O Challenge Cup.
Mazal's race was made for the winner as they went at a hectic pace which left those in front at the mercy of something coming from behind - and the something was the Mick Kinane-ridden Mazal. Drifting Away came home fairly, but Mazal had stolen the winning break. Success Partners has been one of the season's revelations so solid form to that horse is well worth the fullest consideration and Drifting Away could take the trophy without surprising. One of those setting the pace midway in Mazal's race was Winner's Special, who was ridden by Stanley K. M. Chin. He actually hit the front, but was a sitting duck for the winner. Trainer Wong Tang-ping has today called on the services of another useful claimer in James K. C. Chan and an added degree of patience from on top could see Winner's Special as a chance in the race.
He was racing out of his best distance two starts back over 1,400 metres when he was closest at the line and this race looks to have been the longer term plan for Winner's Special whose overall and best form does entitle him to consideration. He is now at a mark in Class Two where he could be effective. Celestial Fortune and Icy Bet both ran in Mazal's race and, even giving the circumstances of that event, it is difficult to see them getting the better of Drifting Away or even Winner's Special today.
Champion trainer John Moore, who has had decidedly mixed fortunes in the past week, saddles up topweight Seven Glory and has decided on a first-time application of blinkers. The horse has run good races over lesser trips, but was noted making late headway under Damien Oliver at his last start over 1,800 metres in soft ground.
He came from well back to be officially fifth to Smiling in what was definitely a hotter race than today's event. He is now stepped up to 1,900 metres and Moore has engaged three-pound claimer Chin for the task. The New Zealand galloper will still be carrying a lot of weight, but his overall form is definitely good enough and has been earned in better company than he is keeping today.