Pakistan Star has hogged most of the headlines out of last season’s Hong Kong International Sales graduates but Jing Jing Win was the top lot and the beautiful mover debuts on Sunday with his own set of expectations.
While Pakistan Star, also entered on Sunday, was reluctant to get on with his breeze-up before the March auction, Jing Jing Win produced a gallop that had most predicting the athletic son of Starcraft would trigger a bidding war - and his new owners didn’t disappoint.
Owner Liu Yu-wen forked out HK$8.5 million for the then three-year-old unraced gelding – just HK$500,000 shy of the all-time sales record - and Jing Jing Win has since trialled twice impressively, once last season with other griffins and then again against older horses at Happy Valley just over two weeks ago.
“He doesn’t know how much he cost and he hasn’t been treated any differently because of his price tag, he is just ready to go to the races,” trainer David Hall said. “And he is just like any other first-starter in that he has to go out there and get it right.”
The astute Australian trainer identified the start as perhaps Jing Jing Win’s biggest weakness after the horse jumped awkwardly in his first trial and a touch tardy to muster last time.
“If there has been a negative, it has been that he hasn’t been clean at the gates, he just needs a bit more experience than that,” he said.
Jockey Zac Purton, also provided some cautious perspective on the likely short-priced favourite.
“He has a good attitude and a nice action – he has been going through his paces in good style, he is pretty switched on – but he has been a handful in the gates,” Purton said. “His lead-up trial was good, even if there were some pretty ordinary horses in that heat.”
Hall has chosen a 1,200m Class Four for Jing Jing Win’s first assignment, and while that seems a suitable starting point, Purton said the horse will appreciate more ground in time.
The Australian jockey, who currently leads the jockeys’ championship with five wins from three meetings, also rides Racing Supernova for Chris So Wai-yin, the handy sprinter drawn in what is normally seen as the worst part of the straight course in barrier one.
At least the wide gate will spare Purton the trouble he encountered last time he rode Racing Supernova, three starts back in May, when he was stuck for a run on the outside rail and ended up one of the best things beaten all season.
That was also with the inside rail out in the “C + 3” position, as it is on Sunday, a situation that can create a real log-jam in straight races.
“It makes the track very narrow,” Purton said. “It is better ground on the outside but in inside barriers are fine if you are on a go forward horse.”
In fact since the start of last season the much-maligned barrier one has been the most successful gate on the straight course when the rail is in the “C + 3”, with five winners from 14 runners.
Racing Supernova faces a field that includes smart four-year-old Adventurer, chasing four straight wins with a light weight, as well as a some track specialists that will have solid support like Bad Boy and Dragon General.
Both So and Purton said Racing Supernova could also be forgiven an ordinary looking lead-up trial.
“He was a little bit disappointing around a corner – maybe he wasn’t comfortable in that situation and we know he goes well up the straight,” Purton said.