The Hong Kong Derby favourite, Bowman's Crossing, certainly did nothing to disqualify himself from that position in Sunday's Classic Mile running. In desperate defeat, he probably did more for his support base than he might have done with a nose victory, though David Oughton and Co can hardly take that to the bank. Self Flit's win for Eddie Lai was a victory for the underrated, though not totally unexpected when punters think back to a number of races in which Self Flit, Bowman's Crossing and Gift have bumped into each other this season, usually without wide differences between them. Bowman's Crossing should have won the race with even luck, but Self Flit's victory despite a ratings disadvantage helped to open up the race a little bit. Trainer Tony Millard is one trainer taking a different lead-up which he hopes will end in the Derby with his tough young stayer, Keen Marshal, and he must have taken some heart about his prospects of getting the horse a berth in the race after watching some of the highly rated Private Purchases fail to impress in the Classic Mile, despite their status as ready-made Derby runners. Last Wednesday, he outlined his predicament after Keen Marshal won his first start for a couple of months in a sterling display over 1,800 metres at Happy Valley. In developing the horse from the Private Purchase Griffin stage, Millard may run out of time to get Keen Marshal up the ladder fast enough without taking the risk of harming his future and is not willing to take that path which has been trodden before by others with unhappy results. The Jockey Club has been willing to make judgment calls on whether horses should be elevated to run despite ratings shortcomings in the past. All Thrills Too was the most obvious of these when included in the Hong Kong Sprint of 2001 on the basis of his improving form and there have been others allowed in despite falling short on ratings, including Macau horse Royal Treasure in the Hong Kong Cup. Horses on sufficiently high ratings to be included have even been left out of the Derby in the past due to a belief they would struggle to stay. Fortunately, it seems the handicapper and his team will get a further opportunity to look at Keen Marshal before having to make a decision on whether to lift him into the field - unless he wins by eight lengths (or Tony Cruz takes him over) he is unlikely to go up sufficiently in the ratings to justify inclusion. The Club is between a rock and hard place. On the one hand, it is successfully encouraging owners to buy expensive horses already carrying high ratings, in order to get Derby starts. On the other, it probably would not want to exclude a worthy improving runner who couldn't make the cut on ratings - a horse which might push an expensive but as-yet-underperformed PP out of the field. It would be simple to say the owners and trainers know when they have to stand up for Derby selection and it is their job to get the horse to the required level by that time or miss out. But horses aren't cars, they aren't that simple.