CHAMPION jockey elect Basil Marcus is praying for fine weather as he attempts to lift his first Hong Kong Derby on Sunday.
Marcus was all smiles as his mount, the certain favourite Mr Vitality, was allocated barrier nine in the 14-runner field at last night's draw in which his four main dangers - Deauville, Adjareli, Citadeed and Michael's Choice - all fared well.
'Everything is right about him. He's fit, he's working well, he's happy in himself and he's drawn nicely. My only real concern is the weather,' said Marcus.
'I don't want it to be like yesterday. Good or good to yielding would be all right but anything worse than that and I would start to be concerned. I'd hate the Derby to develop into a real slogging match on soft ground, that would be against us.' As for his tactics, Marcus said that much depended on the pace of the race though he does expect to ride Mr Vitality more quietly than when he ran fourth to Fujiyama Kenzan in the International Cup which is run over the same 1,800-metre trip as the Derby.
Patrick Biancone has always been a trainer for the big occasion.
He has three runners in the $6 million Derby headed by Deauville who chased home Mr Vitality in the Classic Trial, the pair clear of Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Adjareli.
Biancone doesn't envisage any upsets in Sunday's focal point of the local racing calendar.
'I think it will be the same quinella as in the Classic Trial though this time I hope it is the other way round,' he said after the barrier draw in which the Eric Legrix-ridden Deauville received gate five.
'The first two in the [Classic] Trial pulled too far clear for me to think that one of the others from that race can reverse the form.
'Of course Michael's Choice is the big question. We don't know how good he is. All I can say is that the tougher the company has been, the easier he has won.' The Thierry Jarnet-ridden Michael's Choice jumps from next door to his stablemate as he's drawn stall four while Adjareli is the other side of Deauville in barrier six.
Mick Kinane was delighted to pull barrier one on outsider Che Sara Sara and will attempt to repeat the big-race wizardry which conjured a third placing from Jade Age in the International Cup.
'I won't have to spend anything from there. Hopefully they'll take each other on in front and we may be able to come running through them at the end,' he said.
Alan Munro is hoping to do likewise on Super Team from barrier three while Gerald Mosse, looking as sartorial as ever as he begins a short spell in the territory, will be looking for cover on Able Shot from gate 12.