ENGLISH riding stars Lester Piggott and Alan Munro flexed their Derby muscles with two precision rides at Happy Valley last night.
With Sunday's Hong Kong Derby looming large on the horizon, Piggott showed all his brilliance when dominating the night's final event from the front on the Geoff Lane-trained Jacko.
Jacko was allowed to start at 21-1 - almost an insult to the maestro who partners Classic Trial winner Sterling Town for Ivan Allan in Sunday's Blue Riband event.
Lane, moving to 18 winners in another decent if somewhat fraught season, summed it up when he said: ''Isn't Lester unbelievable? He rode the perfect race from in front.'' Munro, from another generation to Piggott but an English and Irish Derby winner himself, produced a copybook display on Wylie Wong's Jewellery Star in the fifth.
He wasn't prepared to let Piggott on Our Champion or Basil Marcus on Al Bundy out of his sights and pounced on the leading pair shortly after straightening for home.
Al Bundy made Jewellery Star fight all the way to the line but Munro had just enough up his sleeve to get home by a head.
Munro partners Dashing for Lane in Sunday's finale to his three-month stint.
He said: ''I can't wait for the race. He worked nicely on Tuesday and I liked the way he ran for me behind Kadbridge.
''I've really enjoyed my stay again and would love to go out with a bang.'' Munro has already applied to come back again on another three-month licence next season.
All things come to he who waits. Ring The Cabin's connections have had to endure two and a half seasons with a total return of just $13,300 on their big-money New Zealand purchase.
But he finally came good for the Patrick Biancone-Eric Legrix team last night when swooping through late to hold Golden Rule and Star Mark by two heads in the fourth at the remunerative odds of 18-1 - boosting his stake money by $216,000 in the process.
Champion jockey Marcus, odds-on to notch a hat-trick of titles, was seen at his brilliant front-running best on the David Hill-trained L'Enjoleur in the opening event.
Marcus is at his most dangerous when left alone in front, such is his precise judgment of pace through a race, and so it proved again last night when L'Enjoleur held Oriental Oilfield by a cosy 11/2 lengths with Fantastic View a neck back in third.
The win, achieved by L'Enjoleur despite an onerous burden of 140 pounds, continued the tremendous burst of form being shown by Hill who habitually comes into his own in the last third of the season.
His horses can be back with even more confidence than usual.
Hill said: ''I was pleased with the win but that is probably as good as he is.'' ''He was certainly helped by being left alone in front and Basil took full advantage of that. He rode the perfect race.'' Gerald Mosse was back in the winner's enclosure yet again when taking the second event on Gary Ng Ting-keung's revitalised Blue Baron.
The 10-year-old showed the zip of a youngster to hold the persistent challenge of Excel Star by a length.
Bruce Hutchison's Top Gun ran by far his best race for some time to finish just a neck farther back in third but this was a pretty modest Class Five sprint over the minimum 975-metre trip.
Lawrie Fownes' Mehboob II was another 10-year-old to defy his advancing years when making all the running in the third event to hold Hidden Treasure by a head.
There was plenty of money for Lane's Taipan Star who was backed down to 7-2 despite some modest recent form but he found nothing when let down in the straight, having travelled well for much of the way for boom apprentice Francis K. S. Lam.