Marcus bags treble as youngster climbs into Derby picture
DERBY hope Stellar Express led an Ivan Allan and Basil Marcus assault on the silverware at Sha Tin yesterday which is surely just a portent of things to come. The highly progressive son of Kaapstad, a young four-year-old by Southern Hemisphere breeding time, scored tenaciously by a head from experienced handicapper Conticasta in the Japan Racing Association Trophy. There was a further neck back to David Oughton's Jade Age who ran a cracking race for third considering he was making his seasonal reappearance and had not been given a hard time in the mornings going into this event.
Daylight ran fourth as this talented trio exerted their authority over their rivals with thoughts immediately turning to the Derby for Stellar Express who was beautifully ridden by Marcus. The way Stellar Express rallied when Marcus finally asked for maximum effort over the last 50 metres, when Conticasta had loomed ominously upsides, it is conceivable that the 1,800-metre Derby will be on the short side. But Marcus, who had skilfully kept just enough up his sleeve to repel Conticasta, countered: 'I don't think so. The crucial thing about the Derby is the pace of the race. 'I've ridden in a few of them out here now and the pace seems to dictate the result. If the race is truly run I wouldn't be too worried about the distance. 'It's more important to worry about him continuing to improve. He's certainly a horse I have a lot of time for as he keeps progressing that little bit with each race and has a wonderful attitude towards racing.
'He showed plenty of determination and really stretched his neck out when I gave him a couple of backhanders.' The disappointment of the race was David Hill's William's Tact who had put in an enormous run first-up when coming from out of the clouds to run second to Medic Star. He was backed as if there was no settling yesterday, starting the 3-1 favourite, but in the words of jockey John Marshall: 'He was gone fully 1,000 metres from home. If you ask me, the two trials he had to pass in a week flattened him and it showed today. He's better than that.' Sterling Town, like Stellar Express was given a gem of a ride by the triple champion jockey to take the National Panasonic Cup by a neck from Nervous Witness. He found the perfect rails run as stablemate Wonderful World made the running from 7-2 favourite Smiling. From the top of the straight, Sterling Town always looked to have them covered, but was made to work hard in the last few strides as Tony Cruz extricated Nervous Witness from a pocket on the far rail.
'I must say we had the run of the race,' said Marcus in unusually self-effacing manner. The presence of Gerald Mosse led to Enthusiasm starting at 7-1. That always looked poor value and the gun-metal grey ran 10th.