Hat-trick hero keeps it clean
'Not bad for a part-time job!' quipped jockey Anton Marcus after notching a hat-trick at Sha Tin yesterday and managing to steer clear of the stewards' room.
Marcus was alluding to the careless riding suspensions which have seen him spend as much time out of the saddle as in it during his stop-start Hong Kong stints, but his displays on Beloved Partner, Sincere And Faith and finally Goggles underlined yet again that he fully deserves his place in the pantheon of great riders.
Marcus had been concerned enough with his disciplinary record during the first three months of this season that he did not apply for the December-March period and instead cooled his heels in Singapore before reapplying for the final term of the Hong Kong season.
Often his best winning days this season have been accompanied by a ban, but Marcus scraped through unscathed after 10 races, capping a personal-best Hong Kong performance with the final Class One event on John Moore's British import Goggles.
Coming back from matching elite company in the Derby and Champions Mile, Goggles brushed aside his rivals in an effort that was fully expected by Moore and Marcus. 'I didn't want to be beaten on this horse in this race today,' said Marcus, breathing a sigh of relief.
'If he has got the ability that we believe he has, then he was entitled to win that kind of race. Obviously, his temperament has been a slight question mark, but he is improving in that regard.'
With Goggles' tendency to over-race in the past, the anticipated slow tempo of the event was always of some concern, but Marcus surprised by saying he had not been worried.
'I wasn't overly concerned with how the pace would be because John has done such a great job with settling Goggles down in his work,' he explained.
'I didn't think it would be a problem even if they went slowly, as they did. The only time he wanted to fire up a little bit was between about the 600m and the 400m, but thankfully around that part of the race Momentum went up and around to take on the leaders and the pace picked up,' he said. 'That definitely helped my horse, but he is getting better and I think he will continue to improve.'
The gelding was bought as a Derby horse this season and ran a creditable fifth in the classic, but his fizzy disposition before and during races has not been a positive in five previous Hong Kong starts.
'I really do think he is getting better. In his work he has been settling a lot better lately,' Moore said. 'He's just been sitting in behind and then making steady ground in his gallops. He still gets warm in the parade ring, but actually it could just be that the horse is a bit claustrophobic.
'Goggles is fine once he gets out on to the track. He really had to win that sort of race today. He has run well in the big races without winning them, but dropping down from the Group Ones to a Class One, I think he probably had to be too good.'
Earlier, Marcus had been part of a big day for trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah, who led in the winners of the second, fifth and seventh races to record a treble of his own.
Marcus was aboard the all-weather winners Beloved Partner and Sincere And Faith, while Eric Legrix did the navigation on the middle pin of the three, My Delight.
Marcus has done quite a bit of riding for the stable this season, with seven of his 21 wins coming for Leung.
'Sincere And Faith really loves the dirt and there has been nothing wrong with how he has been going,' Marcus said. 'His work was good, he had the draw and I like riding Andy's horses. When you are on them in a suitable race, they are fit and my job is just to steer them home.'
Beloved Partner's win on the all-weather certainly was not out of his turn, but Marcus took full use of his inside gate to give the gelding the trail up he needed. 'That is the first time I have ever been on him in a race, so I don't know how he has been racing, but I have been on him in his work and he has been lovely and relaxed there,' Marcus said.
'He was in the right race today and I don't think you could expect any improvement from him on that. He has won his race and might find it a bit harder in a higher class next time, but he's genuine enough and if he drops to Class Five again then he'll probably be suited again.'
Beloved Partner's owner, Allan Chan Cheong-ki, didn't have it all his own way, though. His other Leung-trained runner for the day, Nice And Easy, suffered a bleeding attack in race six and trailed home 200m behind the field.