The phrase “Hong Kong’s most popular horse” may be under review as it relates to Pakistan Star after the quirky galloper earned the ire of Sha Tin’s notoriously short-fused punters but connections remain upbeat about his future.

Pakistan Star’s roller-coaster career continued with another defeat as odds-on favourite – the fifth time that has happened in 13 career starts – as the five-year-old ground to a flat fourth behind Southern Legend in a Class One handicap.

A chorus of boos and profanities rang out as Pakistan Star returned to scale, mirroring the reaction in June last year after the horse stopped in a race as 1.2 favourite.

“I don’t think he ran a bad race,” Moreira said, pointing to the slow early sectionals that allowed leader Southern Legend to steal the contest.

“Given the way he likes to be ridden, to give him time to wind up and sprint home, the circumstances didn’t help. They went very slow in front and made it hard to make ground, in the end he finished less than two lengths behind the winner. So I am not disappointed. The most important thing is that he is back, he wants to race and he is a very happy horse. I think they’ve done a great job with him.”

Trainer Tony Cruz said coming back to a mile second-up, especially after such a hard first-up run at Group One level, was a factor.

“I thought he ran well considering it was over a mile,” Cruz said. “He obviously needs further than that now but this was the only race we could run him in.”

Cruz confirmed the rest of Pakistan Star’s schedule for the season, with the next target the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy on April 8, followed by the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup three weeks later and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over 2,400m on May 27.

For winning trainer Caspar Fownes, Southern Legend looms as a much-needed marquee horse for a stable that has lacked big names since the retirement of Lucky Nine and Military Attack.

Southern Legend was third in the Group One Stewards’ Cup in January and will now follow the schedule to the Group One Champions Mile on April 29.

“He keeps on improving and his rating will now be over 120,” Fownes said. “Obviously we are looking forward to the races this season but I think he will be at his best in December for the international races.”

Fownes’ stable transfer Joyful Trinity also found form with a third and the trainer is eyeing a trip to Singapore’s Kranji Mile on May 26 with the rejuvenated six-year-old.

“I don’t think the Singapore Turf Club will be inviting our very best milers but Joyful Trinity might be the type they are looking for,” he said.