DEFENDING champion Basil Marcus moved a step closer to retaining his coveted jockeys' title when pulling another winner back on Tony Cruz at last night's Happy Valley meeting. Marcus scored an easy victory on Ivan Allan's Active King in the fifth event to close the gap to three on Cruz who is now sidelined for three meetings on a careless riding charge. ''They say I'm now favourite for the title and I'd say that I'm finally the right price,'' quipped the never-say-die South African after racing. ''I have a full book of rides for the weekend meeting at Sha Tin and am hopeful there are some strong chances among them.'' Marcus was seen at his pugnacious best on the promising Active King whom Allan had freshened up really well for last night's 975-metre sprint. The Australian import may have won easily in the end but it didn't look that way when the gates opened - which is where Marcus more than earned his riding fee. Active King was slowly away and was towards the rear of his field in the first 50 metres on a night when the heavy ground seemed to favour the front runners. Here Marcus came into his own. He was aware of the bias to the leaders and drove his mount through his rivals into the perfect slot on the rails behind stablemate All-Winners who had danger horse My Silvero on his outside. From there Marcus found the perfect run on All-Winners inside as he and My Silvero ran out slightly on the home bend. Marcus went on: ''My horse went strongly to the line, as he did when he won over 1,235 metres here. He's still a bit inexperienced but in time should see out something like 1,400 metres.'' While Marcus was closing the gap on Cruz, Active King was giving Allan his 32nd winner of a tremendous first season. He has only the barest outside chance of catching John Moore in the trainer standings but he will be one of the market leaders for next season after such an impressive first campaign. He has a stack of talented young horses, raced and unraced, to come on line from his various connections around the racing world. Local riders Stanley K. M. Chin and Johnny Ho ended their periods in the wilderness with a winner apiece last night. Chin, widely regarded as the most talented of the young apprentices, has found success scarce this season with retaining trainer Eddie K. C. Lo's victories split between Brent Thomson, Cruz and Dennis C. H. Yip. Last night Chin prevailed on David Oughton's Matinee Idol after a scrap with stablemate Berkut down the straight. Ho came home on Tony P. H. Chan's River Treasure who benefitted from a return to his favourite 1,235-metre trip to win a modest second event. Peter Ng Bik-kuen's Call Sign underlined that he is back to the kind of form he showed in Ireland when taking the last in a hack canter under another fine front-running ride from Danny Lee. My Bunny won like a good thing under Nigel Tiley in the third after which there were plenty of smiles from his patient connections. The enigmatic Super Hero finally consented to put his best foot forward when winning the night's opening event to continue trainer Derek Cruz's return to form.