Marcus and Cruz call shots at the Valley

THE big guns fired at Happy Valley last night with short-priced doubles from triple champion jockey Basil Marcus and local riding hero Tony Cruz.

Marcus scored on David Oughton's highly-promising stayer, Starbuck, in the second event and the progressive Privilege for his retaining trainer Ivan Allan in the sixth.

But it was Cruz who drew first blood on his brother Derek Cruz's potentially useful New Zealand-bred subscription griffin from last season, Lifo, in the night's opening event.

The brothers Cruz then followed up with another improving type in Lucky Glory in the fourth.

'I've been more than happy with the way it has gone so far this season,' said Tony Cruz.

'The double takes me to six winners. I'm only a couple behind Eric [Legrix] and you have to remember that I've missed three of the nine meetings so far due to that careless riding suspension on the first day.

'But don't forget my brother. I can't go without the horses and some people tend to forget the role that Derek plays. He's a top trainer as he keeps proving.' The brothers certainly look to have an interesting prospect in Lifo who had far too much in reserve for Everwell Times on the run to the line.

Lifo scored by a comfortable couple of lengths in a time which was faster than the old Class Three record for the mile, let alone Class Four in which he was racing.

The way he surged clear over the final 200 metres suggests that he will be seen to even greater effect when pushed up to 1,800 metres or even farther.

The merit of his win is further underlined when it is considered that he's just a very young three-year-old who was giving weight to a number of older rivals.

Runner-up Everwell Times looks set to oblige in the near future. He won't often run up against a Lifo.

Lucky Glory had a head to spare over Namjong Again in the fourth in which Jacko unshipped Peter Hutchinson past the post.

Starbuck is probably even more promising than Lifo and is sure to come on a bundle following his 11/2-length defeat of Excel Treasure in the second.

Starbuck, fourth to the top Class One performer Sure Win King in last season's Sha Tin Vase, looks set to live up to those expectations over a distance of ground.

Oughton had high hopes of a double via Congratulations in the sixth but they were floored by Marcus and Privilege, though Congratulations might well have won had he kept straight when coming under full racing pressure.

Marcus was backed to complete a treble on Allan's Quick Action, the top private purchase griffin from last season, in the final event.

But Quick Action was beaten by the number 10 draw with the likes of Compradore, Millennium Reigns and Classabove keeping him out wide. He dropped out to finish last in an effort which is best forgotten.

A rough race went to the admirable Champman River, though King Prawn and Pinch The Devil had no luck in running as a bottleneck developed on the inside.

Peter Ng Bik-kuen's Speedstar pulled off a shock 50-1 success in the third, making every post a winning one.

Eric Legrix inched one clear of the suspended Darryll Holland at the head of the jockey standings with a well-timed run on Wong Tang-ping's Everwell Cheers in the fourth in which Top News did well to hang on for fourth.

Boom apprentice Simon 'Hong Kong' Yim was the latest rider to receive a suspension when found guilty of careless riding shortly after the start in last night's first event. He will be sidelined for three meetings.