For close to two years now, Pakistan Star has been more sideshow than racehorse but trainer Tony Cruz believes the one-time prodigy turned problem child’s rehabilitation is now complete.
“He has a racing mind now, not like before, he was thinking too much,” Cruz said. “He has the correct mindset and I think it will show.”
Pakistan Star’s two runs since dramatically stopping in a race last June and again in an October trial have been sound but it is the five-year-old’s attitude in the morning that gives Cruz hope.
“He just gets on with his work, no trouble, just straight forward,” he said.
The trainer has been pleased with Pakistan Star’s two fourth-placed finishes, the last of those a sound effort with top weight in a slowly run mile that drew boos from the hard markers in the Sha Tin outer.
The gelding tackles the same distance in Sunday’s Group Two Chairman’s Trophy in which Joao Moreira will be given simple instructions.
“Follow the leader,” Cruz said.
That leader, Cruz hopes, will be stablemate and Horse of the Year candidate Time Warp, who has produced two extraordinary Group One efforts at 2,000m this season.
As a Group One winner in the last 12 months, Time Warp is one of two horses, along with Beauty Generation, who will carry five pounds more than his rivals in the HK$4 million feature.
Cruz hasn’t given up hope the electric front-runner can reproduce his wire-to-wire efforts back in trip but a lot will hinge on whether jockey Zac Purton can get a clean start.
“He is a front-runner, that’s his game, so if he misses the start like last time he doesn’t have a chance. Last time he was back at a mile in the Stewards’ Cup, so when he blew the start and it was game over,” Cruz said.
“But if he can lead he will be hard to catch. Actually, I’m really happy with both Time Warp and Pakistan Star. They are in great condition and I believe they will still run a big race – I think they will both be finishing in the first three.”
Cruz heads into the race three-handed but, not surprisingly, isn’t as bullish about Beauty Only’s chances.
The seven-year-old hasn’t won since his 2016 Hong Kong Mile victory and hasn’t placed in eight starts this season.
“His prime time might be over,” Cruz said. “But he wasn’t helped by that slow pace last start, he had no chance, so maybe with a better speed up front he can run a better race.”