Basil must wait another day to claim his record

Robin Parke

CHAMPION jockey Basil Marcus equalled his best tally on a night of mixed fortunes for the South African ace at Happy Valley last night. A cool, calculating ride on Just Delight (5-1) brought him his 71st winner of the season, equalling last season's tally, but he failed to get the one that would have put him clear when Racing Ace (3-1 favourite) found A Secret Weapon (4-1) too good in the nightcap.

Earlier, a good plunge on griffin debutant Star Lap (9-2) went astray in the second event when the youngster veered sharply off at the home bend, leaving Marcus with an impossible task. The two-year-old eventually finished in a dead-heat for third place.

Just Delight was providing another winner for champion trainer-elect Ivan Allan who had the four-year-old gelding turned out in great shape. A Class Three galloper taking advantage of the overlap system, Just Delight was entitled to maximum respect on his best form. ''It was a slightly easier race for him and we were certainly hopeful that he would run very well,'' said Allan.

Just Delight lay just off the fairly hectic pace set by Rambo, Family Of Wah Yuen and Men's Pride (7-1), who finished second. Men's Pride took it up in the 1,650-metre race at the top of the straight but Marcus had him in his sights and went on to win comfortably. Owner's Dream (7-1) finished third under persistent and heavy riding from Rambo Tse Wai-ho but this is not one to rely upon. Australian jockey Michael Clarke, whose father will train at Taipa next season, has not had a particularly memorable three-month stint but things have taken a turn for the better.

Beyond Control obliged for the Melbourne-based jockey on Saturday night at Sha Tin and A Secret Weapon, stepped up to 1,650 metres, won in determined fashion. There were no real excuses for favourite Racing Ace who was hard ridden by Marcus from the top of the Rock and never really looked like getting the measure of the winner.

Send A Signal (9-2) appeared to be blocked for a run at a crucial stage and finished third - but the winner did it on merit. Happy Valley-loving Tarnside Turbo (9-2) did it again in the night's main staying contest, the Cricket Club Valley Stakes.

This 2,230-metre test for Classes Two and Three horses was exactly what Tarnside Turbo likes - even though his immediate past form was more than a little patchy. But he's a different horse at Happy Valley and he showed it again last night with regular rider Raymond K. L. Tsui up. He came from near last in the small field of seven to sweep clear at the 200-metre mark and easily gain the upper hand over the Damien Oliver-ridden favourite, Sagar (2-1).

Scada (18-1) finished third with his best run to date. Brothers Derek and Tony Cruz were right on target in the second event when Lifo (8-1) showed the required improvement from his first start down the straight 1,000 metres to record a satisfying win in the second griffins' race of the night. Lifo came well clear in the final stages from well-backed America Supreme (4-1) and both horses will win races next season.

''I'm quite excited about him, I think he is a good young horse who will be well suited by a mile next season,'' said Derek Cruz. French stars Patrick Biancone and Eric Legrix, who have had a markedly successful second half of the season, struck in the opening griffins event with smart debutant Aqua Princess (6-1). The three-year-old filly was not advantageously drawn but battled home with real resolution to beat the John Moore-trained Peony (5-1) who looked the winner halfway down the straight in the 1,235-metre event.

Aqua Princess was backed down from 10-1 so the smart money was on target but Biancone said: ''It was a bit of a surprise. I thought she would run well but possibly not quite this well.'' Fillies remain a relative rarity in local racing but the Canadian-bred youngster won by a head and the rest had their chance. Peony jumped quite well and was taken forward quickly by John Marshall who was tracking Leading Star (10-1) coming to the turn. He ranged up outside the leader and quickly assumed command as topweight Successful Years (3-1) attempted to get on terms.

Aqua Princess was beginning her run down the outside and claimed Peony in the shadows of the post with Snip Pour Roi (30-1) causing a shock by finishing third in a late run. Dragon's Pal, 3-1 favourite on the strength of a facile trial win, did not quite reproduce that effort when it mattered and finished fifth.

Class Six galloper Niagara Falls (9-1) produced the season's Houdini act by making it back-to-back wins in the third event - thus ensuring that he will be around next season. Trainer Alex Wong Yu-on moved on to his 10th winner of the season and said: 'I'm not bad at training Class Six winners.' Topweight Jet Speed (5-1) finished second for Marcus and Allan and will still be around next season. Jockey Frankie F.C. Lor will be riding again next season following a plea to the Licensing Committee at Happy Valley last night.

Lor, who has done much of his riding for Ivan Allan over the past two seasons, was required to show reason why he should get a valuable jockeys' licence for the new season following a disappointing campaign.

But Lor, who produced letters from Allan and another signed by trainers Brian Kan Ping-chee, Peter Tse Yan-side and Peter Ng Bik-kuen, told the Committee that he had been assured of rides from several trainers next season.

''I am delighted that they have given me another chance and that I can ride again next season. I really will be trying very hard to get extra rides and more winners.

''I have been riding a lot for Ivan Allan but not for many other trainers and I hope that will now change,'' said Lor.

Apprentice Danny L.T. Leung, who was to become a riding boy, has been granted a licence to ride until November when he comes out of his time. A decision will then be made on whether he gets a senior licence.