Four Aces vacancy swings Marcus' way
The decision of jockey Glyn Schofield to ride New Zealand-bred speed machine Flashing Star instead of unbeaten griffin winner Four Aces at Sha Tin tomorrow has opened the way for the rekindling of one of last year's most potent partnerships.
Trainer John Moore has called on Anton Marcus to fill the void on Four Aces, the brilliant two-year-old who will attempt to emulate last year's precedent set by stablemate Anabatik and make a winning fist of his debut against older horses.
Watching young horses lining up against their older peers is one of racing's perennial fascinations. And as the trainer of last year's best griffins in Able Choice and Anabatik, no one is better placed than Moore to make the call on Four Aces.
While the trainer believes the juvenile has what it takes to extend his unbeaten scoreline to three straight, he said it was the superior times recorded by Flashing Star that convinced Schofield to prefer him to Four Aces.
'It was one of those decisions that no jockey likes to make, but Glyn asked to be excused to ride Flashing Star,' Moore explained. 'Of course, he's done a lot of riding for [trainer] Ricky Yiu as well, but it seems like the winning times of Flashing Star was the major factor that swayed him.
'That's when I called Anton. We had a terrific association last year before he hurt his hand - Anton tells me he won 15 races for the stable - and this will be a good chance to get together again.'
By happy coincidence, Marcus has exploded back to peak form recently and punters needing any convincing in that regard need look no further back than his masterly exhibition on River Dancer in the final event at Sha Tin last Sunday. Four Aces has raced twice up the straight 1,000 metre course for two effortless wins. And although he now graduates to a contest against the older horses, he does so with the useful handicap weight of just 120 pounds.
This includes the 5lb allowance for the griffins, introduced last year on the recommendation of handicapper Ciaran Kennelly. It is an allowance all griffins can take when racing against older horses until the end of the season.
Kennelly said he had used a number of precedents from past years in coming to a final decision to assess Four Aces with a rating of 67 for his open-age debut.
'Last year, Anabatik had raced three times in griffin races for two wins and a second, and then graduated to Class Three on a rating of 66, and won,' Kennelly said.
'Able Choice won his first two starts easily [in griffin races] and had a rating of 69 for his next start, though that was in the Juvenile Championship.
'The only other griffin to race against the older horses this year has been Sounds Better, who finished behind Four Aces in both his griffin wins, and then improved to win two griffin races himself. He [Sounds Better] had a rating of 67 when he went to Class Three and won [March 26].'