On a day that was set to showcase the major equine talents in town heading forward, there was still a lot of the great uncertainty of horse racing on show at Sha Tin and plenty of reminders that horses are, well, horses.
The Tony Cruz-trained Pakistan Star was beaten again, this time mostly by his own inexperience, while another boom horse, the John Size-trained Mr Stunning, could lay claim to something similar in the final race when he looked a tragedy in defeat behind Line Seeker.
Zac Purton carried home four victories on international trial day but was hardly the punter’s pin-up, winning both of the final two races as the boom horses were tipped, but neither win was really of his making.
Joao Moreira said that Mr Stunning was restless and “playing about” in the gates before the start and he came out badly after being sensationally backed into odds-on for his first run since April.
“He was throwing his head up and down in the gates, just playing about, then jumped up in the air when the barriers opened, instead of going forward,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are horses and things like that can happen but he should have won.”
And Pakistan Star’s status as a mental baby was confirmed again when he found himself in amongst the field for the first time in his life and wasn’t really sure what was going on.
He again gave a big start and was held up in the straight before rocketing home for second to the David Hall-trained Simply Invincible.
At his three prior starts, a bad getaway saw him out the back on his own, but in clear room, before launching his big finish but Pakistan Star jumped better this time then got a bump from a rival runner before looking very uncertain of the right way to handle crowds.
“Pakistan Star is like a young kid – he’s only learning, and this was just his fourth start,” said Cruz, who revisited the handicapper’s heavy treatment of the three-year-old, who was raised 30 rating points in two starts.
“He was punished too hard and, for a horse still learning about racing, he was forced too quickly to have to take on experienced older horses.
“You could see him today, there was a little gap in front of him but he hesitated, he looked so unfamiliar with being between horses because he’s never done that before and you can’t get away with little mistakes like that against this level of opposition.”