Late starters won't catch Always Early

JACKIE C.K. Tse can make a winning return to the fray by taking tonight's opening event on Always Early (Nap) on a decidedly mundane equitrack card at Happy Valley.

Always Early is blessed with that vital attribute for racing on the dirt - natural speed - especially when competing over the minimum sprint distance of 1,030 metres.

Given his pace he should be able to get to the front in tonight's opener and make all the running under Tse who is returning from a three-meeting ban.

Always Early put up a brave effort last time when trying to adopt similar catch-me-if-you-can tactics only to find the speedy Turf Champ a thorn in his side.

Turf Champ managed to get to the front and Always Early was fighting a losing battle but still finished a respectable 3/4 lengths second.

Shanghai Star is fast from the gates when he's right, but his form of late has been decidedly modest and he put in his worst effort of the season last time out when a long behind Speedstar in an uncompetitive dash down the straight 1,000-metre course.

The biggest danger is likely to come from Ivan Allan's Accolade who impressed in his final gallop from the barriers at the top of the back straight on Monday morning, and it is worth noting that he had the speed to run down stablemate All-Winners over 975 metres on the grass last season.

It also looks highly significant that Basil Marcus now replaces stable apprentice Y.S. Wong who was on board when Accolade appeared to get outpaced over 1,030 metres on the equitrack last time out.

It is likely to be a different story tonight with Marcus punching away for all he is worth from the moment the stalls open.

He will be doing all he can to try to prevent Always Early leading and crossing him and getting to the rails. This is where Tse must earn his riding fee as it is where the result of the race is likely to be determined.

Allan could hold the key to the night's final three events.

His So Easy (Next Best) is set to take plenty of beating in the last where the main danger could well come from Star Mark who represents the in-form combination of Brian Kan Ping-chee and his temporary stable jockey, Eric Saint Martin.

There is very little to choose between this pair on their seventh and eighth behind Gold Capture over 1,900 metres on the Sha Tin turf where Star Mark actually finished a neck in front of So Easy at the same weights as this evening.

But So Easy is preferred on his form before that Gold Capture run when he was a highly-creditable head second to City Raider over 2,000 metres on the dirt.

Marcus now replaces Stanley K.M. Chin and the champion jockey's role could prove vital as he knows this tricky equitrack surface that much better than Saint Martin.

Marcus is also fancied to be able to defy a bad draw on Turf Champ and take the fifth event for Allan.

This is an exceptionally tricky sprint as there is bundles of speed in the race and it is hard to find the leader.

Profit Taker and Speedy Good may share the early speed but they may not be able to hold Turf Champ at bay for very long.

The early speed means that Schnitzer should be running home strongly. He is a must for the quinellas.

Casablanca has some solid Class Four form to her name and can finally lose her maiden tag in the Class Five fourth race.

She has the beating of Love Of Freedom on their form behind Top News over course and distance in Class Four.

The consistent if somewhat enigmatic Gagne Vite looks a danger from Jungle Deer and Nelson's Pet in what is appears a very poor and uncompetitive contest, despite the nine runners.

Heza Star is the pick of the weights in the second while Perfect Timing can improve enough to beat Silver Arrow, House Honour and Win Label in the third.