Big future seen for Packing Winner
Anyone who thought that Peter Ho Leung was shooting too high when he mentioned Packing Winner as a possible international runner after the gelding's first-up win this season was ducking for cover when the real deal materialised off a fast pace at Sha Tin yesterday.
More often than not, Packing Winner has been in races without a true tempo during his career but when he was asked the question under Douglas Whyte yesterday due to tactics on leader Socrates, the Zabeel came out in the five-year-old and he burnt turf to smash the 1,800m course record in the Beijing Handicap and win by a wide space.
'Before we were talking about the Hong Kong Mile but Packing Winner is by Zabeel and after what he has done here at 1,800m, maybe the 2,000m is going to be what he wants. Now he has shown his true quality,' said Ho, who has long maintained that Packing Winner was heading somewhere special.
'I'm not sure what path we will take, I'll discuss that with his owner and, of course, the first thing is to see how the horse comes through this run.
'But I would expect he would get probably 12 points for the win to take him to a 105 rating and I think he is the kind of horse that the Jockey Club will be excited to select for the international races - a young horse on the rise with all his best ahead of him - whether he has the rating or not at selection time.'
Ho will have plenty of opportunities to let Packing Winner lift his rating higher before the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International selections in November, and on yesterday's effort he's going to give some curry to a Class One field in the near future.
Whyte was circumspect about the quality of the opposition yesterday but said Packing Winner had never felt so comfortable in himself as he does now.
'The penny has really dropped and he is a pleasure to sit on,' Whyte said. 'Before it used to take you 600m to pull him up after a race and now he stops when you ask him and goes when you ask him.'
The champion jockey said there had been some discussion prior to yesterday's event whether Packing Winner should be given another run at 1,600m before stepping up in distance.
'I said to Peter I thought the 1,800m was the soft option now that he's settling so well,' he said. 'To run him again at a mile might have meant having to rev him up to put him where you want and then you run the risk of setting him off getting keen again. So the step in distance was the right thing for him, he travelled so well - actually, he is doing ever so well now. He's getting it all right.'
The fourth successive winner on the day for Whyte, Packing Winner stopped the clock at one minute and 46.2 seconds, taking 0.4 seconds off the course record held jointly by the Ladies' Purse winners of 2006 and 2004, Hello Pretty and Russian Pearl respectively.