Derek Cruz can add more silverware to the cabinet this evening with his Happy Valley specialist My Honour in the St Andrew's Challenge Quaich. The speedy son of Zilzal recently impressed in a barrier trial at the city venue when coasting past his rivals to win over the minimum distance and Cruz has him in tip-top shape.
He should take all the beating based on his effort first-up this season when third to V-Can, an event which featured four other runners who line up again tonight. Like that event, there is likely to be plenty of early pressure from the likes of Certainty, Bullish, Expedient and Merry Merry, a factor which should be in My Honour's favour as he is likely to settle behind the speed from his favourable draw.
Hardest to beat should be Merry Merry, who will appreciate the move back to Happy Valley after running moderately on his last two outings down the straight 1,000 metres at Sha Tin. In the key form race won by V-Can, he was caught wide for most of the journey but battled on well to finish a length behind the winner. He finished 5.75 lengths adrift of Sprint Trial Trophy winner All Thrills Too last time but can improve tonight from his plum draw in gate two.
Certainty was a slight surprise to make the frame last time when third to Sparky over the minimum trip at Sha Tin, as practically all of his better form has been at Happy Valley. He has a terrific record over this course and distance, having made the frame on six of eight attempts, which includes three wins. The main concern is that he could be pressured in the lead, which could take its toll in the concluding stages.
Bullish is one front-runner who is likely to apply some early pressure, but it is hard to make a case for him based on his effort last time when finishing five lengths behind Saintly Partners. The latter can be given a chance to make the frame, as he fired up last time and was a shade too keen over 1,200 metres. The hot pace in this event will suit him and, and as he won convincingly on his only previous attempt at the Valley 1,000 metres, must be given due respect.
Loyal Devotion has caught the eye on more than one occasion at morning trackwork recently, having won three barrier trials in the past month in preparation for his seasonal reappearance. He is a winner over this trip at Happy Valley and based on his work alone must be given a chance to make the frame, even though he is likely to have a tougher run than most from a wide alley.
Both Expedient and Super Century drop back sharply in trip after failing over the Valley mile last time, but in general their form this season has not been encouraging at all.
A case can be made for Rare given his fine record over course and distance of having made the frame on each of his four attempts, including a win. He, too, can settle just behind the pace and, while he does meet some handy opposition, the likely race pattern will suit his style.
Optic Friendly has been plagued with problems and can be opposed from a poor barrier, while Comme D'Habitude is something of a risk on his first attempt around the tight Valley circuit.
Lawrie Fownes' debutant Baccura, an English import, has some creditable form from his native land, but the bulk of it is over further and there is likely to be plenty of improvement to come out of this run.
Earlier in the evening David Hayes can keep his bandwagon rolling with Top Winner in the fifth event. The speedy son of Euclase was caught right on the line last time by the progressive Flying Machine after looking the winner 50 metres from the wire. Shane Dye has actually been beaten a nose aboard Top Winner on his last two outings but can go one better tonight after striking a slightly easier contest.
The final event is worth sticking around for with the quinella of Lucky Superstar and French Connection making plenty of appeal. The move up to a mile gives Lucky Superstar a solid chance of providing Alex Wong Siu-tan with his first winner of the season, while French Connection was made to work a fraction hard in attaining the lead last time and will prove hard to beat.