Three last-start winners who did not participate in the previous two heats of the Malaysia Three-Year-Old Championship set to make the final heat a very intense affair at Sungei Besi this Sunday.

Bakuteh (Dick Turpin – Isan Express by Danehill Express) is unbeaten in two starts. The Australian gelding won his debut back on 8 April, beating Sakura Japan by a head. As if to illustrate the strength of that victory, the latter went on to win the first heat in Penang on 6 May.

Trained by Tan Soo Beng, Bakuteh followed up with another win in a Class 4 event on 12 May and has been kept fresh for his attempt this Sunday.

Step By Step (Captain Gerrard – American Morsecode by All Chatter) was unplaced in his debut but stepped it up quickly to win his next start in Open Maiden company on 13 May.

The Australian gelding was nominated the second heat in Ipoh on 6 May but was a course scratching as he had sustained a bruised off-fore sole.

Prior to landing in Malaysia, Step By Step had raced three times at three in Australia, managing a third at Geelong and a fourth at Kilmore.

But the horse everyone has to watch is Ateej (Equal Stripes – Puerto Azul by Bertrando).

The Argentinian gelding found one to beat in two starts last year and would have won his second outing on 15 October had he not run into all sorts of trouble in the race. He was beaten only a neck.

Attempts to get him fit again after that run proved an uphill task he was transferred to Tan Soo Beng last April. Three months later, Ateej romped to a 2 3/4-length victory in his first start in Malaysia in Open Maiden company just last Sunday.

Backing up in a week may be a big ask, so it will be interesting to see how fit he really is.

Besides the above-named trio, there are several other form horses who are capable of taking the final heat.

Always D’Great (Iffraaj – Sundown by Generous) has proved that he can measure up to the top three-year-olds with a fifth placing in the first heat and finishing second to Relau Star in the second heat. The New Zealand gelding had already won three races prior to that two runs.

Triple One D’Great (Beautiful Crown – Fresh Tracks by Bianconi) won three races last year but trained off earlier this year with several down-the-field finishes. But his third in a Class 4 event three starts back and fourth-placed finish to Relau Star in Ipoh means that he could be back in form.

Former Singapore galloper Metallocene (Darci Brahma – Glam Girl by Galileo) will also have a strong claim. Winner of one race from five starts last year, he was an instant success in Malaysia when he won first-up in Class 4 on 8 April.

Promoted a class, he put up another good showing though beaten less than one length in third place behind Wow on 12 May.

For Fun Only (Stratum – Sunburnt Park by More Than Ready) ran third to Relau Star in Ipoh, then went on to win her next start in an Initiation race on 23 June.

She had a dismal run two weeks ago and trainer Chong Keng Leong must be confident of the filly which be bought for A$59,000 as a yearling to enter her this week.

The first heat saw a big upset by Sakura Japan. The second produced a popular result with odds-on favourite Relau Star scoring a runaway win. What will the third heat bring?

The Championship Final will be staged in Penang on 28 July.

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