Pakistan Star has sent an ominous warning to his rivals with a brilliant trial on Friday morning ahead of the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on May 27, while there is huge doubt over stablemate Time Warp taking his place after failing in the same heat.
A two-time Group One winner this season, Time Warp finished last when favourite in the QE II Cup with stewards deeming the effort “unacceptable”, requiring him to perform to their satisfaction in a trial before being allowed to race again.
Time Warp did not pass that condition on Friday and therefore needs to trial again, and pass, in a race against time to take his spot in the 2,400m contest.
While that won’t have pleased trainer Tony Cruz, the performance of Pakistan Star would have softened the blow.
The enigmatic five-year-old finally delivered on his potential with a dominant victory in the Group One QE II Cup last month and it looks like he has continued on in the same vein following his career-best performance.
The days of badly missing the kick or stopping mid-race appear to be behind him after he jumped well from the outside gate, sat wide with the leading group before putting his opponents to the sword – all while under a tight grip – in the 1,200m hit-out on Sha Tin’s all-weather track.
With William Buick having commitments in Europe, Tommy Berry has been confirmed as Pakistan Star’s rider for the HK$10 million feature and he was impressed with the effort.
Last-start #QEIICup winner Pakistan Star strode clear for a big trial win at Sha Tin this morning under @TommyBerry21. He runs in Sunday week's G1 @StanChart Champions & Chater Cup (2400m), as do stablemates Time Warp (10th this morning) and Gold Mount (11th) #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/aMQDFWpX8t— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 18, 2018
“He’s in a great frame of mind at the moment, which is showing in what he is doing on the track,” he said.
With the doubt over Time Warp, it looks like there will only be a small field for the Group One.
Pakistan Star’s stablemates Exultant and Gold Mount will be there, as will Eagle Way, while the lone international raider Chemical Charge is scheduled to arrive from England on Sunday night.
The John Moore-trained Helene Charisma is set to miss and run over 1,800m at Happy Valley on Wednesday night instead, while Rocketeer is also out after being transferred from Moore to the stables of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen on Thursday, alongside Ruthven and Pablosky.
Also winning a trial on Friday in smart fashion was the Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend, his final hit-out before heading off to Singapore to compete in the Kranji Mile on Saturday, May 26.
Southern Legend led all the way with @zpurton aboard to win a trial on the Sha Tin dirt this morning. The galloper flies to Singapore overnight, along with Horse Of Fortune, to contest next Saturday's Kranji Mile @SGTurfClub #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/KyYsG1SXF9— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 18, 2018
Southern Legend, who came third in the Group One Champions Mile, will be joined by Tony Millard’s Horse Of Fortune as the Hong Kong representatives in the feature with Zac Purton and Karis Teetan, respectively, taking the rides.
While Horse Of Fortune hasn’t raced since March, he tuned up for this contest by finishing second in a trial at Happy Valley on May 5 and having a strong gallop on Friday.
“He’s going well, he hasn’t run for a long time now but Tony also believes the horse likes to run a little bit fresh, so we had a trial at the Valley, we gave him a nice workout ... he’s ready to go,” Teetan said.
“It’s a good thing we are taking him there, he has always been running against the top horses in Hong Kong and finishing one or two lengths behind them.
“I think taking him to Singapore will change his mindset and I don’t think the field will be as strong as what he has been running against here, so that could give him a better chance to win again.”
Meanwhile, John Size’s talented sprinter Amazing Kids has been retired.
The gelding won seven of his 28 starts in Hong Kong, winning at Group Three level twice last season.