Du Plessis can make his mark on fast-finishing Upgrading
Mark du Plessis has hardly been swamped with opportunities in his current stint, but trainer Andreas Schutz has given him a great chance to upgrade and take the main race at Happy Valley tonight on Upgrading.
With no trophy event, the Class Two Cornwall Handicap (1,650m) is the strongest contest on the card and brings Upgrading back to the scene and distance of his best performances, including the gelding's only two victories.
Upgrading scored a smart win over the Valley mile in February four starts ago, then put the writing on the wall for another coming victory when he rushed home for third to Handsome Zulu on March 2 at the same trip.
Schutz then stretched Upgrading to 1,800m for the first time but the experiment failed when a combination of a muddling pace and the extra distance meant that the five-year-old didn't produce his trademark strong finish.
Punters should just rule a line through Upgrading's last start on the all-weather, when a particularly slow tempo played against most runners in the race, especially the back runners like Upgrading.
With that behind him, this race shapes up much better from gate one, even though the race tempo is once again a query.
Perfect Gear, Great Achievement (Darren Beadman) and Absolute Hedge look the only potential front runners, so the pace won't be anything flash unless they get into an unexpected battle.
Upgrading would probably prefer more pressure on the front, but his low draw should allow him to fairly handy and Du Plessis might go to school on Douglas Whyte's ride on the same horse from the same gate last time he won.
Whyte trailed the lead most of the race on the rail, then had some luck break his way when able to move Upgrading off the fence approaching the bend and give him plenty of room to let down.
With the soft tempo being a serious issue in the race, grand-old Great Achievement looks the danger as he attempts to take his 11 win and his first since November 2009.
The nine-year-old has battled leg problems for some years but keeps turning up and justifying himself, and his latest effort was a signal that he is ready to win again. Going back from a wide draw, Great Achievement rattled home behind Royal Pumpkin for fourth, but he will be far more prominent from barrier two.
Eyeing for more
Mark du Plessis has been to the Valley 12 times in his short stint this season for a winning strike rate of: 8%