By David Morgan
Pakistan Star did it again. The horse that went viral online with a stunning last-to-first debut win back in July produced a carbon copy performance to maintain his perfect record and wow the Sha Tin crowd in the Tsuen Lok Handicap (1400m) this afternoon, Sunday, 18 September.
Trainer Tony Cruz, in lyrical form post-race, likened the Shamardal gelding to “a catapult – full of power in the finish”. Pakistan Star, five lengths adrift after yet another tardy start, cruised off the home turn and stormed through the final 400m under Matthew Chadwick in 21.44s to post a comfortable length-and-a-quarter victory.
“It’s a repeat of his first race,” Cruz said. “He’s definitely going places. He’s a Class 1 horse and these were only Class 3 horses, so I hope he doesn’t jump that slowly in the future; jump with the field; stay with the field; if we can have him race midfield we can win the race more easily!”
Cruz was not being drawn on just how good Pakistan Star might be: “As he improves he’ll tell us how good he is”. But the trainer could not hide his enthusiasm for the Kerm Din-owned gelding, purchased for HK$6 million at the Hong Kong International Sale in March – quirks and all.
“He’s a very shy horse but he gets better with experience,” Cruz revealed. “He’s a stronger and better horse now. He’s much fitter than last time; he’s definitely improved – character-wise and in terms of bravery.
“I thought he’d definitely be much faster out of the gate than that but he jumped so slowly – he was the last one out and he was slow to muster speed but he came on so strongly at the end. He has stamina and he looks like he already wants 1600 metres, so we’ll probably step up in distance next time.”
Pakistan Star actually broke a touch more smartly than he had done in Griffin company previously and easily handled the step into Class 3 grade.
“Matthew was so confident about this horse,” Cruz said. “He just left him alone and around the bend I could see he was really changing his gears; he was really coming with a bigger explosion than last time – he has that powerful turn-of-foot. Once he straightened to the outside I knew he was going to win and Matthew took it easy, too, he didn’t hammer him.”
Expectations were also high that Jing Jing Win (126lb), another Hong Kong Sale graduate, would open his account at the first time of asking and the four-year-old Starcraft gelding did not disappoint in race two, the Class 4 Hoi Pa Handicap (1400m).
Trainer David Hall’s debutant, the HK$8.5 million top lot back in March, powered away from out-matched rivals for an easy four-length verdict – an ‘armchair ride’ for jockey Zac Purton.
“It’s great to get that out of the way,” Hall said, “he’s shown a lot in his track work and his trials.”
There was a moment of concern just before the off when the 1.5 favourite sat back in the gate and was removed from the starting stall, before loading late and breaking on terms.
“He’s had a few little problems with his barrier behavior, which we’ve worked on a lot,” Hall said of the handsome bay, who understandably exhibited greenness throughout his first race-day experience. “He gave us a little increase in the heart rate before the start but he’s gone and got the job done really well. He’s always been one to be a bit naughty – he’s a bit of a playful horse – he probably hasn’t been the best student in the barriers but he’s got better each time.”
Hall was pressed about the possibility of a BMW Hong Kong Derby tilt come March, but the trainer sensibly played down any such talk in the aftermath of Jing Jing Win’s sauntering success in what was, after all, only a 60-40 handicap.
“I don't think there was any great depth in that field of Class 4, so once he got out of the gates and put himself in that position, I’ve always thought he probably had the potential to do something like that. He’s got a bit of talent and he’s done the job nicely first time. Now he’s got to build on it,” Hall said.
“At the moment we need to learn about him in his next couple of runs and learn about him distance-wise. We’ve seen a lot of Derby horses that are not 2000-metre horses but still run it in their four-year-old year, so you can never rule anything out. But at this stage I think he could be a bit brilliant when he really learns. Starcraft’s can stretch a little bit – how far we don't know – and he’s out of an Anabaa mare, and he’s got a lot of that Anabaa quality in him, so he might be a sprinter/miler more than anything else, at this stage.’
Talk of the Classic Series might be premature but Jing Jing Win had already exhibited enough in his track work and barrier trials to suggest that he could be smart, and today’s win certainly confirmed the Australian-bred as a horse with bundles of potential.
“He’ll probably come on a lot for that race: he’s never been opened up before; he was a bit lost when he had to go and run away from the field; he didn’t know how to do it because it was the first time he’d had to do that sort of thing. That might wake him up and he might be a hell of a lot sharper next time,” Hall concluded.
One trainer declaring a clear Classic Series ambition was Michael Chang after his talented four-year-old Dragon Master (123lb) notched win number three down the 1000m straight in race seven, the Class 3 Wo Tik Handicap.
“He’s won so well at the straight 1000 metres but, on paper, he’s a miler. And he’s a four-year-old, so I want to see if he’s good enough for the Classic Mile,” Chang said. “Since the first day he came. I’ve always liked this horse – I think he’s decent.”
The Darci Brahma gelding, rated 70 for today’s win – at start six – will have to prove his aptitude around a turn and over farther if he is to make the line-up for the first four-year-old classic in January. His sole attempt around a turn came over 1200m back in May and resulted in a fifth-place finish.
“I’ll discuss with the owner about stepping him up in distance and we will see how far he can go. If he doesn’t stay, I’ll bring him back but there is only one Classic Mile so I have to try,” Chang added.
Dragon Master’s win brought up a double for Purton, and the Australian ace made it four for the day thanks to the John Moore-trained Beauty Prince in the day’s feature, race eight, the 1400m Yan Chai Trophy (Handicap); and aboard the Chris So-trained Racing Supernova, another youngster with upside, in race nine, the Class 2 Yeung Uk Handicap (1000m).
Racing resumes in Hong Kong on Wednesday 21 September at Happy Valley.
Pakistan Star wins in sensational style again.
Jing Jing Win lands a stylish victory on his Hong Kong debut today with Zac Purton on board.
Purton steers Dragon Master to an impressive victory down the Sha Tin straight today.