Silvestre de Sousa is happy to inherit the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile ride on Pakistan Star and as Sunday’s race rolls around he is noticeably immune to the early season hype that surrounded the fan favourite.
When leading jockey Joao Moreira stuck with top-rated Classic Mile hope Rapper Dragon, Pakistan Star’s trainer Tony Cruz was forced to look elsewhere and the job has fallen into the lap of “the other Brazilian”.
“No, there’s no pressure and of course I’m really happy to have the ride confirmed,” de Sousa said at trackwork on Tuesday.
“He is a nice young horse and still getting better, but people were talking about him like he was a champion after those first two wins. Of course he has a long way to go. He was a bit unlucky when he was beaten but people had very high expectations of the horse.”
A former British champion and accomplished big-race rider from his time with Godolphin, the mild-mannered de Sousa isn’t one to get nervous anyway, and to be fair the boom has been lowered on Pakistan Star since his spectacular first two starts.
Since Pakistan Star’s two last-to-first bursts of speed made him a worldwide internet sensation with race fans and even the general public, three defeats as a long odds-on favourite and a facile win against weaker opposition in the Griffin Trophy have lowered expectations significantly.
De Sousa won’t ride Pakistan Star at trackwork but has watched the gelding’s race replays closely and wants a strong tempo in Sunday’s race.
“He needs a fast run race, the faster they go up front, the better,” de Sousa said. “He obviously has a strong finish and has an amazing turn of foot. He is still learning at this stage, when you watch his races, it seems like he still lacks that experience to race between horses.”
“I’ll jump on him on raceday and get a feel for him on the way to the gates. I haven’t spoken to Tony about tactics yet but once the draw comes out we can sit down and talk about how he wants him to be ridden.”
Matthew Chadwick rode Pakistan Star in the horse’s first five starts before he was replaced by Moreira for last month’s Griffin Trophy win.
As expected, Moreira chose to stick with the more proven Rapper Dragon, already a Group Three winner and carrying a rating of 114 as he heads into the first race of the four-year-old series.
Cruz has four runners entered for the HK$10 million race, with Pakistan Star joined by Winner’s Way, Super Chic and Circuit Hassler.
The trainer confirmed Chadwick will stay on Winner’s Way, with Karis Teetan booked for Super Chic and returning Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli engaged to ride Circuit Hassler.