Bliss to give Cruz a happy ending

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2002, 12:00am

Tony Cruz's yard has struck top form in recent weeks and the 1999-2000 champion trainer looks set for a titanic duel in this season's title race with David Hayes, who leads by one. Cruz appears to hold the upper hand with his runners at Happy Valley this evening, and with a little luck in the final event could draw level at the top of the standings with Indubitably Bliss. The former griffin has been more than a shade unlucky not to have picked up a race this season, having finished second on three of his four outings, and looks destined to go one better this evening.

The son of Dixieland Band looked the winner under Gary Stevens last time over the Valley mile when he hit the front close home only to be caught on the wire by Lomond's Fay, who lines up again this evening. That was Indubitably Bliss' second start over the Valley mile and was the second occasion on which he had been caught in the final strides to finish runner-up. He is well drawn this evening and Felix Coetzee should be able to give him the run of the race.

Lomond's Fay meets him only two pounds worse in the handicap and would rate a serious danger providing he can repeat his last effort. The concern is that he rarely holds his form from one run to the next, but he still has be be given due respect from a favourable alley.

The main threat could come from Golconda, who handled the tight Valley circuit on his first attempt surprisingly well on his last start. The son of Ezzoud takes a major step up in trip tonight, jumping from 1,000 metres to a mile, a distance he has raced over only once before. He is a progressive individual and can be given another chance over this distance.

Hornet has fallen appreciably in the handicap and could prove quite hard to catch out on the lead if left alone. His last win rating was 82, which came over the Valley mile, so he should be treated with due respect tonight off a mark of 79.

Bobo Duck has never been beaten over the Valley mile and may have found the 1,800-metre trip a little too testing last time. While the move back in trip is a positive, he may have reached his limit in the handicap following a hat-trick of wins and is likely to have a hard task from an outside gate.

My Chief ran on soundly on his last start over 1,200 metres on a day when not too many runners were able to make ground in the testing conditions. His only start over the Valley mile was worthy enough to suggest he could fill a minor placing this evening.

Century Horse is another who must come into the reckoning as he is unbeaten over course and distance and should have every chance to keep that record intact from gate one. Basil Marcus has had only one ride aboard him for a win and the South African's booking is another positive factor.

Of the rest, both Good News and Millennium Supreme may have reached their limit in the handicap, but with luck in running could sneak into the frame, while Dollars And Sense is arguably slightly more effective at Sha Tin. Projectstar is a major risk at seeing out the journey.

Earlier in the evening, there could be a little value about with Lawrie Fownes' Acclamation in the third event. The son of Mellifont was well supported on his debut when he finished a disappointing seventh behind subsequent winner Chariot Of Storm. The imposing sort looked desperately in need of the experience and was outpaced from the outset, but the step up to 1,200 metres this evening will be highly beneficial. Fownes took him to the city track for a recent trial, which he won quite impressively, and there is plenty to suggest he can be followed on an each-way basis.

The main quinella picks are Lightning Bolt and Forever Victory. Lightning Bolt will relish the step back to 1,200 metres but is something of an unknown quantity at Happy Valley, while Forever Victory has had excuses on his last couple of outings and can improve.