By David Morgan
Pakistan Star will attempt to round off a fine campaign with a first Group race victory in Sunday’s (25 June) G3 Premier Plate at Sha Tin, and connections are expecting the star four-year-old to leave his five rivals reeling and a-rocking.
“I think he’s ready to go there and rock and roll!” a drenched Joao Moreira said after a rainy barrier trial session at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 20 June).
The Champion Jockey partnered Tony Cruz’s charge through a routine barrier trial four days ago, and, reflecting back, expressed satisfaction at the way the Shamardal gelding worked through that 1200m all-weather batch. The German-bred galloped wide on the “wet slow” dirt track on that occasion and rolled home for an easy third behind Winner’s Way and Thewizardofoz.
“He felt fine, he seems to be a little bit more mature; he stood properly in the gate, jumped on terms and travelled nicely on the turn,” Moreira said.
The Brazilian is one from one on Pakistan Star, having previously partnered for an easy victory in the Griffin Trophy (1400m) back in December. Since then, the Hong Kong International Sale graduate has placed second three-times behind Moreira-ridden opponents: Rapper Dragon in both the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), and a closing neck behind Japanese raider Neorealism in the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) on April 30.
Initial talk after Pakistan Star’s latest effort suggested that the rising star would be next seen after the summer shutdown, but with the horse in good heart, connections have opted to take in this late-season contest.
“He’s had that break since the QEII Cup, which has freshened him up,” Cruz said this morning. “He gained a bit of weight and his attitude’s been real nice. He doesn’t do things wrong nowadays, he’s very professional.”
The trainer, too, was pleased with Pakistan Star’s latest barrier trial, which he believes has him where he needs to be to seal his third win of what will have been an educational 10-race campaign.
“I was pleased with his trial, he did nothing wrong and overall I’m very happy with him,” he said.
Sunshine has been rare in Hong Kong over the past week or so, with umbrellas a necessary accessory. That precipitation is set to make way for hot, dry weather in the coming days, but, with possible showers forecast for Sunday, Cruz revealed a minor concern.
“I’d prefer a fast track,” he said. “He’s got a hell of a stride on him but the bigger the stride the faster track seems more suitable. If it’s loose or sloppy, I don’t know - I’d prefer him on a good track. A wet track would be a little concern - it would be my only concern.”
Pakistan Star will shoulder top-weight of 133lb in the handicap. His rivals are set to include the Tony Millard-trained Horse Of Fortune (130lb), winner of the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap at the course and distance last November, as well as Eastern Express (120lb) from the John Size stable, runner-up in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy at a mile last start and another course and distance scorer.
The Cruz-trained Romantic Touch (130lb) and Anticipation (111lb), and the John Moore-trained Harbour Master (126lb), each has winning form at the course and distance.
The Premier Plate is one of two Group 3 features on Sunday’s 10-race card, the other being the Premier Cup Handicap (1400m). Last year’s winner Sun Jewellery (125lb) is entered for an attempt to notch a first success since but faces stiff opposition from stablemate Thewizardofoz (133lb), the Cruz-trained Winner’s Way (120lb), the Moore stable duo Magic Legend (118lb) and Dashing Fellow (122lb), as well as Me Tsui’s admirable pair New Asia Sunrise (113lb) and Adventurer (103lb), and the Ricky Yiu-trained Jolly Banner (111lb).
Pakistan Star lands the Griffin Trophy in style with Joao Moreira on board.