Packing Winner can add to Zabeel's wonderful record
It has been a big week for the stallion Zabeel and Packing Winner can add some extra lustre by winning the Cathay Pacific International Cup Trial (2,000m) at Sha Tin today as Hong Kong's international staying stocks go on show.
The outstanding stamina influence, Zabeel took the Melbourne Cup with Efficient and the Peter Ho Leung-trained Packing Winner (Douglas Whyte) is poised to become his newest star by stepping into the top grade this afternoon to put himself into the picture for the Hong Kong Cup next month.
And Packing Winner will have everything in his favour to take that opportunity with the step up to 2,000m looking no problem at all as he will get the perfect run in the race on paper.
As they did in the Sha Tin Trophy, Egyptian Ra (Glen Boss) and Sir Ernesto (Felix Coetzee) should pilot the field from their outside gates, with their rivals almost universally preferring to take hold early in their races.
With Egyptian Ra, a keen goer at shorter distances, tackling 2,000m for the first time, it would surprise if the pace was anything less than true and Packing Winner should slot straight in behind the pacemakers and enjoy that tempo.
On his last start Socrates set a furious pace and Packing Winner gave chase from the outset before strolling away with a hollow win and a course record for 1,800m. A good performance this time and Ho will circumvent any discussion about whether Packing Winner's rating is sufficient to get him into the Hong Kong team for the Sha Tin international showpiece.
Connections of Viva Pataca (Darren Beadman) have been bullish about the improvement he has made since his solid first-up run but he will need to have done so as, historically, the job for the likely favourite is not as straightforward as it might seem carrying the five-pound penalty for his Group One wins last term.
The only horse to have won this race with 128 pounds in its five runnings was Vengeance Of Rain before he went on to win the 2005 Hong Kong Cup. He was unbeatable at the Sha Tin 2,000m at that time but still only prevailed after a tight photo. A number of big name favourites have been well beaten in this race with the penalty, including Viva Pataca at odds-on last year.
Elegant Fashion carried a penalty to win in 2003, but with her female's allowance still carried only 124 pounds.
Meanwhile, Viva Macau is making a better impression this season and followed a good first-up run over 1,400m with a win in the Ladies' Purse over 1,800m, showing plenty of character under 133 pounds.
While he was comprehensively belted when he met Viva Pataca twice last season, he may now have acclimatised to the point where the gap between them has narrowed somewhat.
Number of wins Packing Winner has racked up in his 10 starts : 5