South African jockey Anton Marcus was the star of an otherwise lacklustre Sha Tin card last night as he pounced twice for victories but could easily have left the course with four. Marcus drove home Tim's Tonic, the first leg of trainer Alex Wong Yu-on's double, and followed with the course specialist Bruin Supreme for Geoff Lane two races later.
'It's always lovely to win and I'm happy. Two was nice, but I went close on Champion Winner and Glory Hero too, so it could have been very nice,' Marcus said.
The win on Bruin Supreme was Marcus' first on the gelding, but the seven-year-old has been a consistent winner over last night's 1,400-metre course. 'That's eight wins and six of them over this course and distance so he's been a great horse,' said Lane after Bruin Supreme had taken on his usual pacemaking duty to roll home a winner in the fifth for Marcus.
'Anton showed great judgment too because he called me for the ride. Gerald Mosse could have ridden the horse but had a commitment to David Hayes' runner so I was only too pleased to put Anton on and he did the job.'
Lane said barrier 14 was not too much of a concern to him despite the tighter C+3 track in use. 'No, I just said to Anton that he didn't have to lead on him. I said just let him sit out there for the first part of the race and just see how things were panning out before he made the decision to go to the front,' Lane said. 'When nobody wanted to go, Anton took him out there and rated him well. It's a great win for his owner, too, because his other horse, Bear Supremo, didn't have much luck the other day. This will help to ease the pain.'
Marcus showed copybook style on Tim's Tonic, box seating to the turn where he gained the right run through between the leaders. 'He's always competitive in the Class Five races and I was surprised that Eddie Lai and Douglas Whyte both knocked back the ride,' said trainer Wong, who followed in the next race with heavily-backed King Of Fish (Michael Cahill).
By contrast, Whyte had asked for the ride on King Of Fish but Wong stuck with Cahill. 'Michael Cahill did nothing wrong on the horse the other day, so I kept him on. This does seem to be an improved horse since I put the blinkers back on,' said Wong.
The feature of the night, the Chinese General Chamber Of Commerce Cup, went to trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam and his dirt specialist, By Instinct (Whyte). 'He is what he is - a dirt specialist. We tried him on the turf last time and he just failed in the heavy going,' the trainer said. 'That's four from seven on the dirt now but I will try him on the turf again before the end of the season.'
Whyte praised the effort, saying that he had been forced to make more use of By Instinct than is usually the case. 'From the inside draw, I didn't want to get caught behind runners so I committed him a bit earlier than I normally would,' Whyte said. 'I had to come around the leaders' heels at about the 500 metres and start moving on him a bit early so By Instinct did a good job to fight off Glory Hero. He's a very genuine sort of horse.'
Ricky Yiu Poon-fie's debutant Flashing Star (Glyn Schofield) produced the most promising effort of the night when he broke the class record in the opening race. 'His preparation has been very good but I was a bit worried when the second horse Forte kicked so strongly,' Yiu said. 'Knowing that my horse is going to appreciate longer than 1,000 metres, I didn't know if he would be able to go with a speed horse like that but he was very strong.'
This pair drew well clear of the field and Flashing Star's 56.6 seconds lowered the record set by stablemate Good Lad last season by 0.1 of a second.
Peter Ng Bik-kuen-trained Major Bee (Henry Tsang) caused a major upset in the other Class Four event over 1,000 metres, leading throughout to beat Champion Winner by the barest of margins and in much slower time than the first event.
'He didn't race well around a bend last time so we tried bringing him back to the straight course and it worked out,' said Ng.
Weichong Marwing described his race seven win on Ivan Allan-trained Flying General as 'an armchair ride', while Rodney Quinn wrapped up the card with another long-priced win on Andy Leung Ting-wah's Colourful Era.