Star Of Marble has polished look
STAR Of Marble can help Tony Cruz's championship cause by taking the final event at this evening's inaugural night meeting on the Sha Tin turf.
Cruz has recently faltered in what had appeared an inexorable march towards his sixth jockeys' title but he will get few better opportunities between now and the end of the season to ride a winner than Star Of Marble.
The three-year-old horse has an outstanding form claim on his run of two starts ago when he forced the rapidly improving So Easy to a short head over the Sha Tin mile.
Wong Tang-ping's gelding headed So Easy with 100 metres to run but was outstayed in the final couple of strides. The drop back to 1,400 metres should suit him ideally. He scored by a very comfortable 31/4 lengths from Super Bingo II over course and distance on his previous start.
Super Bingo II is now 9 lb better but that does not look enough to reverse the form.
Star Of Marble was eased right down by Cruz when scoring and could have won by five lengths or more had he been ridden out to the line.
He has also improved significantly since. He had the third horse a staggering 12 lengths away when duelling down the straight with So Easy who has gone on to frank the form by making his mark against the season's best griffins in the Happy Valley Vase.
So Easy then gave the form further credence by running a good third to Our Pal in a competitive Class Three handicap last Sunday where he was ridden from too far off the pace.
Since running so well against So Easy, Star Of Marble ran slightly below his best form when three-quarters of a length second to Dazzling Union, again over the Sha Tin mile.
He was tenderly ridden that day under the 140 lb and Dazzling Union was able to steal a winning break.
Even so, a reproduction of that form is probably good enough to see Star Of Marble prevail. After all, he had third-placed City Raider another 21/2 lengths back in third and City Raider has been a good winner since.
From a handicapping point of view, Star Of Marble makes enormous appeal. Because he has not won on either of those last two runs but is already at the top of Class Five by virtue of his defeat of Super Bingo II, the handicappers have been unable to raise him in the ratings.
Had they been able to, then Star Of Marble would almost certainly be competing in this race from a mark at least 10 lb higher.
The voluntary promotion is also in his favour as he races from 124 lb rather than being asked to hump the onerous 140 lb. Anyway, he is more than good enough to progress to Class Three in time, let alone win in Class Four.
As for his trackwork, he was noted going better than ever in a recent barrier trial where he went to the line hard on the bridle and with great fluency.
Super Bingo II has thrived since moving to Lawrie Fownes and remains a danger. He had third-placed Exporter six lengths away when a decent second to Jollity last time out on rain-affected ground. The first-time application of blinkers helped him.
The other main dangers appear to be Gary Ng Ting-keung's Maniwin and David Hill's Fat City.
Maniwin's last run behind Fat City is best forgotten. He is much better than he showed that day, having earlier shown plenty of tenacity to overhaul Clean Them Up down the straight 1,000-metre course.
He has been working well and could start at decent odds. He now meets Fat City on nine pounds better terms.
Fat City was a fair third to Lucky Treasure last time out and has trained on well. He has appeared really happy in himself when completing two laps of the inside track.