If Matthew Chadwick had mixed feelings about keeping the saddle warm on BMW Hong Kong Derby hope Pakistan Star he wasn’t letting it show as he played the team man in a key lead-up trial at Sha Tin.
Chadwick was aboard Pakistan Star for the gelding’s first two starts, blistering last-to-first victories that made the Tony Cruz-trained youngster an internet sensation.
Three defeats as odds-on favourite saw Chadwick replaced as rider, first by Joao Moreira for an easy assignment in the Griffin Trophy, before Silvestre de Sousa took over for the first two legs of the four-year-old series.
Chadwick is thus well placed to provide perspective on the son of Shamardal’s progress and came up with some fascinating insight heading into the HK$18 million race as he substituted for the absent de Sousa.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been on him but he feels a lot more like a stayer now these days,” Chadwick said after Pakistan Star ran to within a half a length of the John Size-trained Western Express in a 1,200m dirt trial.
Pakistan Star was placed up close to the speed, but wide, and when Chadwick asked for a sprint the normally relaxed gelding moved well to the line ahead of his first try and 2,000m.
“I asked him for a bit in the straight and he gave me a decent response,” Chadwick said.
“He is going into the race quite well. This is his main target, and always has been his main target, so we would like to think he is there with his fitness. So they just asked me to ride him quietly and keep him out of the dirt. We just went and cruised around, it was a nice breeze-up trial to take him to the next race.”
Size opted out of pushing to the Derby with 94-rated Western Express after an ineffectual display over 1,800m in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, but the Australian import is likely to race on the same day in a 1,400m Class Two.
The son of Encosta de Lago looks like he will be a force to be reckoned with at the distance, having looked fantastic when beating California Whip and Jolly Jolly over 1,400m two starts back.
Western Express has been ridden conservatively in each of his six local starts, but that has been in races where he has drawn wide or, in the case of the two four-year-old series races, where there has been a distance query.
On debut in Australia, Western Express raced close to the speed and in trials the gelding has shown some early pace that may be utilised at some point.
On Friday, Teetan made a concerted effort to push Western Express to the lead after a slightly slow get away from the stalls, with the gelding quickly finding a relaxed rhythm out in front.
Later in the morning, yet another of Size’s exciting young talents, three-year-old sprinter Premiere (Teetan) warmed up for what should be an explosive Class Two clash a Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Premiere has won three straight over 1,000m, but now steps up to 1,200m for the first time and meets a handy field including Sea Jade and comeback horse Jetwings.
Teetan didn’t ask Premiere for much in the 1,050m dirt trial, the horse’s second since a comfortable Valley victory on February 2.