DIRT demons Basil Marcus and Tony Cruz dominated proceedings at last night's all-weather meeting at Sha Tin. Marcus led the way with a 280-1 treble via Leadership and Sweet Win for Tony P.H. Chan and David Hill in the opening two races before making all the running on Sumotori in the fifth for Ivan Allan. The treble took the former champion to 14 winners for the campaign while Cruz's double on Amazing Grace for Wong Tang-ping and Dragon's Pal for the in-form local handler, Chan, left the defending champion on the 11-winner mark.
'I couldn't be happier with the way the season has started,' said Marcus. 'You have to remember that my retaining trainer [Allan] is very patient and won't have our team in full stride until later in the season. 'That's why it's great to be able to pick up not just a number of outside rides but very good rides at that.' Marcus then added: 'Things have really clicked but I'm hungry to get my title back and will be working as hard as I can in the mornings to keep the good rides coming my way.' Leadership came from some way off the pace to take the opener going away from favourite Fairy Fun who just held Nickels King for the quinella spot. Fairview Star, making his reappearance for Wylie Wong, ran on strongly under Jimmy Fortune for fourth and will be significantly improved for the outing. Sweet Win swooped down the centre of the track to give Marcus a winner for his old retaining trainer in the second. Favourite Lickety Split didn't get the best of runs once the field had settled down as he was pocketed, travelling well, down the back straight and round the bottom bend before Darryll Holland was able to find a split at the top of the straight.
Marcus completed his treble in grand style, making all the running on Sumotori in the fifth to win by 13/4 lengths from Leading Lantern who ran home well for second and should be ready to finally break through next time out on the grass. 'Everyone knows it helps to lead over the 1,050 metres and I was fortunate to be drawn on the inside,' said Marcus. 'Ivan discussed the race in detail with me and we decided to make the most of the advantage of being drawn barrier one over this trip.' The minimum dirt trip of 1,050 metres is proving a boon to punters, with one important proviso - you have to be able to find the leader.
Play hunt the leader successfully and a win is as good as yours. Every one of these sprints run this season has been won by the leader and that was the story once again when Dragon's Pal made all to win eased down by 51/2 lengths from Golden Era and Valiant Star. 'I wish every winner was as easy as that one,' smiled Cruz who has done well to keep tabs on Marcus as his main supplier of winners, John Moore, never hits top form until after Christmas.
Cruz and Ping used to be familiar names together on the scoresheet in seasons past. They pair up less often these days but Cruz has won on two of his last three mounts for the astute local handler. Last night he rode a copybook race to prevail on Amazing Grace in the third, having scored on Prince Baikal for the stable a couple of weeks ago.