Pingwu Spark is already considered a giant in physical terms but he could prove the proverbial giant killer on Sunday when the big-striding grey aims to lower the boom on Pakistan Star at Sha Tin.
Pakistan Star might be Hong Kong’s most famous galloper but at well over 1,300 pounds, Pingwu Spark is its heaviest and Benno Yung Tin-pang’s five-year-old has attracted a cult following of his own.
Five wins from seven starts have seen Pingwu Spark’s rating rise and the size of his owners’ entourage grow as the crowds in the winner’s enclosure become as much of a talking point as the horse’s barnstorming performances.
“Each time there seems to be a few more people come to the races,” Yung said. “And there will be a few more on Sunday.”
Pingwu Spark dipped his toe into the deep end of Group One racing last start in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and it quickly turned into a train wreck tactically when Derek Leung Ka-chun pressed forward from a wide draw.
Even though Pingwu Spark was three and four deep for the trip after failing to cross to the lead, he fought on gamely to finish just two-and-a-half lengths behind winner Beauty Generation.
“He never stopped working really, the whole race he had to chase,” Yung said. “He kept fighting all the way to the line though.”
Despite how tough the run was, Pingwu Spark’s body weight is only down 18 pounds and Yung said the horse had “come through the run well, he’s fine”.
Leung faces an entirely different scenario on Sunday, with a cat-and-mouse tactical battle looming.
Up at a mile, the early pace won’t be as frantic as it was in the 1,400m Group One and with a lack of front-runners, the lead looks to be there for the taking if Leung wants it.
Earlier in the week, Pakistan Star’s trainer Tony Cruz flagged the possibility that his horse would at least sit handy or even go to the front for Joao Moreira, but Yung felt his horse could end up in front by default.
“Most of the field either don’t have the speed to lead, and if they do, they probably won’t want to lead,” he said.
Pakistan Star will have to give Pingwu Spark 15 pounds in the race plus come back from a tough 2,000m run first-up to a mile.
Cruz believes his horse’s best trip is 2,000m “or even further”, but that the five-year-old needs racing after his long enforced lay-off.
“He has hardly raced and we desperately need to get him back into the rhythm of racing,” Cruz said. “He needs it physically and mentally. I think he can run well at a mile but this is to get him ready for the races later in the season.”
Provided Pakistan Star comes through Sunday’s race, Cruz said his horse would contest the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy on April 8 in preparation for the Group One Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on April 29.