Treble puts Marcus back in front of riders' championship
Champion jockey Basil Marcus moved ahead in the fiercely contested battle for this season's title with a winning treble at rain-swept Happy Valley last night.
It was a mundane midweek meeting but Marcus has been a prolific plunderer at the city track over the years and struck early last night with Bambi (3-1 favourite) in the opener and then followed up with game grey Grand Vefour (5-1) in the sixth event.
The treble came up in the nightcap when trainer David Hayes, out of the winning list for a time, saddled up Dance Control (7-1) and Marcus did the rest in a sensational finish with course specialist, American Way (4-1).
Dance Control won by a head with American Way turning his head to savage him in the final two strides.
Marcus is now two ahead of his South African compatriot Douglas Whyte who landed Furioso (9-2) in the fourth event on the card.
It was a damp night with little on the card to enthuse over but trainer Eddie K.C. Lo certainly was not complaining. He had his first winner of the season here on Sunday and followed up with Bambi in the first event.
'I would just like to hope that some of the horses that ran second earlier in the season will now win a couple for me,' said Lo with a smile as he was on hand to usher Marcus back to scale.
Bambi, who looked the logical choice in the Class Five, 1,650-metre event, just staved off the challenge of King Of Kings (10-1) with Robbie Fradd taking over from the indisposed Alan Munro.
Grand Vefour was a surprise winner to the extent that game Picador (15-1) seemed to have held on in the Class Four event.
A stride before and a stride after the post it was definitely the Lawrie Fownes-trained campaigner but the camera showed that the Geoff Lane-trained Grand Vefour had put his head down right on the line.
It was a bonus winner for Marcus as Whyte had been the public fancy on the John Moore-trained Rare (3-1) who was under pressure as they swung the corner and knocked up in the straight.
Former champion trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee was back on the presentation podium after Optic General's shock win in the featured Volunteers' Challenge Cup, the fifth event.
On Sunday, Kan and claimer Willie Kan won the Ewo Trophy and this time it was another jockey he has long supported who brought off the 20-1 upset.
Jimmy K.H. Ting is a former Kan apprentice and has maintained his long association with the stable with his one-time boss giving him chances every season.
Optic General jumped from the extreme outside in the 12-runner field and was ridden for speed to head them off after 100 metres. Ting had used him up to get there but the six-year-old Australian import kept finding something and held off the fast-finishing Grandstand (7-2) by three quarters of a length with favourite Happy Boy (5-2) a head away third in the Class Two longer sprint.
It was a game display from the winner who was being claimed in every stride over the last 50 metres by the first-time blinkered Grandstand, with Brett Doyle up.
Long-serving Bruce Hutchison continues in vintage form and Word From Rome (5-1) led them a merry dance in the second event.
It was a hit-and-run effort from top Australian rider Steven King who shot to the front, slowed them up, strode away again and went to the line over five lengths to the good of Better Choice (7-2 favourite) in the Classes Four and Five, 2,400-metre event.
'The trip was never going to be a problem for him and it might have been for a couple of others in it. Steven gave him a top ride and I am pleased for him that he is also getting right among the winners now,' said the popular Hutchison.
King rode an extremely intelligent race on the Irish import who was winning only his second Hong Kong race but certainly looked capable of repeating the feat over a similar trip.
Better Choice is invariably a bridesmaid and nothing else in the nine-runner field flattered.
One-paced lower grade winner Surprise Surprise (5-1) finished third while Eternity (5-1), backed up quickly after an unplaced outing on Sunday, fared no better this time around.