Marcus makes full use of Valley expertise
Nick Pulford, Racing Editor
Basil Marcus was his usual sunny self at rainswept Happy Valley after landing a double on two pick-up rides to move on to the 14-winner mark for the season. 'It's been a drizzly day and it's not very nice to ride in those conditions, but it makes it all worthwhile when you have a winner or two,' Marcus said after taking the Cup race aboard One Step Ahead to follow a spectacular success on Watch Me Win earlier on the card.
One Step Ahead was earmarked for Weichong Marwing before the jockey picked up his suspension last weekend and Marcus was delighted to get the ride on Wong Tang-ping's consistent sprinter in the 1,200-metre feature, the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup. He was even more pleased when he landed in barrier one, a crucial factor on a day when none of the nine winners was drawn wider than five. 'It was a nice ride to get and the draw was perfect,' Marcus said. 'I got a lovely run on the inside and a beautiful split in the straight, and my horse kept on really well.'
The seven-times champion knows Happy Valley better than anyone and he added: 'It was very important to be well drawn today and to get a handy position. You get thrown wide off the home bend here anyway, but on the C+3 course you can end up going even wider.
'It's a big advantage if you're close to the fence because you can hold on a little bit around the bend to stay on the inside and then kick up the straight.'
The ground went from good at the start of the meeting to yielding by the end of the afternoon following 5.5mm of rain, but Marcus felt the ground was only a factor due to the natural characteristics of the track.
'The course rode pretty well considering the conditions and it's difficult to say whether the ground was better on the inside even though most of the winners seemed to go that way. I just think if you're near the inside, you can go a bit easier on your horse and the ground takes less out of them. If you have to work a bit harder round the outside, your horse is going to tire that little bit sooner.'
Victory Marble and Companion, who were drawn in barriers two and four respectively, disputed the early lead and Marcus was able to get a great run in the trail. Victory Marble kept on well for third but Companion, who was such an impressive winner last weekend, faded disappointingly in the straight as One Step Ahead forged clear to win by 2.25 lengths from the late-finishing My Chief.
Marcus scored his first win of the day on Andy Leung Ting-wah's Watch Me Win, who threw off his maiden tag in impressive fashion to land the fifth race by 4.5 lengths. The four-year-old, who was having his fifth outing, had signalled his improvement on his previous start when fourth to Noble Boy over course and distance - form which had taken a boost in yesterday's preceding race when Noble Boy scored a follow-up success.
Marcus, who was riding Watch Me Win for the first time, again made good use of a good draw in barrier three and he said: 'Andy felt the horse's last run was very progressive and he told me he had put the blinkers on for the first time today to try to get some more improvement. He was well drawn and again I got a beautiful run and was able to kick away at the end.'