Mazal seeks three-peat
It's the time of the year for honest stayer Mazal to come into his own and trainer David Oughton has every reason for confidence when he tackles the Queen Mother's Cup at Sha Tin tonight.
The icing on the cake would actually be rain, but even without any real cut in the unpopular C+3 course, Mazal should prove too strong in this special conditions race over the testing Classic trip of 2,400 metres.
The distance is just what Mazal requires to bring out those reserves of strength and determination and with the race restricted to those rated 120 and under, the Irish stayer gets a great chance of winning a quality race.
This is Mazal's race as he showed when winning it for the past two years, accounting readily for stablemate Legitimate last season. Mazal was joint top-rated last season on 117 but is now two points clear of fading former star Privilege who has it all to do.
There can be no doubt about the readiness of Mazal who ran an honest race in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup behind Oriental Express over 2,000 metres where he was, as expected, doing his best work at the line.
Trainer Oughton knows the six-year-old inside out and has laid him out once again for this domestic Group Two race.
At the same time last year, French jockey Eric Saint-Martin was announced as Oughton's stable jockey and the Queen Mother's Cup success on Mazal was their first major win together.
This time around it could be their last as Saint-Martin heads for other pastures with Tony Cruz next season while Oughton will have Alan Munro as his stable rider.
With half the field racing out of the handicap, it really does trim down the logical chances and Mazal tends to stand out on his overall record and his most recent form.
The other runner who must come strongly into calculations is the David Hill-trained Supreme Bases who was a comfortable winner in lesser company over 2,200 metres and he too has been laid out for this.
The extra distance will prove no problem to the strapping son of Sadler's Wells and his last start, when narrowly defeated by Golden Duke in the 1,900-metre Cable TV Cup, was no disgrace.
Hill said: 'He was actually not entirely comfortable in the ground, which was yielding, and that surprised us a bit. But they really ran up to their Gold Cup form and Golden Duke has been one of the better stayers this season.' Supreme Bases was responsible for some good work early in the week and looks as if he will come into this feature race rippling fit. He has been just a shade unlucky. He should really have won under Stanley Chin two starts back but went too soon and then wavered well off a straight line when going away from the whip.
He was still only touched off by a head and his Gold Cup run had merit to it, considering the strength of the opposition.
Supreme Bases looks the other runner in the field to be suited by the special conditions of the race and it will be a major disappointment if he is not in the first three.
Golden Duke clearly merits as much respect as Supreme Bases but he is going to find it difficult to confirm Cable TV Cup form with the Irish stayer on the readjusted weights.
Citadeed may well have been sharpened up by his run down the 1,000 metres last time but has not proved to be the most reliable of conveyances while Privilege will need to get his own way in front.
That may not be easy if claimer Willy W. Y. Kan sets Fat Choy Together alight and there is also the front-running Quick Speed, also trained by Ivan Allan, who carries 106 pounds and the capable Martin C. K. Tsang.