By David Morgan
He’s been called mercurial, obstinate, recalcitrant, and a whole barrage of insults more, but Pakistan Star’s latest erratic display could just be a manifestation of a high horse I.Q. and an ability to remember.
“I thought I’d got him over all of this but the horse has a good memory. He’s like a good dog, he’s too clever,” said trainer Tony Cruz at Sha Tin.
Cruz is preparing him for Sunday’s (18 November) BOCHK Jockey Club Cup. The 2000m contest will come two weeks after Pakistan Star’s latest start in the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse, in which the gelding thought about hitting the brakes just a furlong or so into the 1800m affair.
Pakistan Star watchers will be as acquainted with the blinkered bay’s brilliance as with his standout prior misdemeanour – a hoof-screeching stop just 200m into the June 2017 Premier Plate Handicap. That contest, like the Ladies’ Purse, was an 1800m race.
“He’s only had two runs at 1800m and we’ve seen what happened so that’s the last time he’ll ever race at that distance here – I won’t take that gamble again – he recognised that same place,” said Cruz, who will look farther afield for opportunities in 2019.
“All of his races at Sha Tin will be a mile or 2000 metres and above. And I’ll be entering him to travel places – Dubai would be on the agenda and Japan, too. I think he might enjoy racing in different environments.
“But he didn’t stop,” the trainer added, “and I don’t think he’ll stop at the 2000 metres on Sunday.”
Occupying the mind
The configuration of Sha Tin’s 1800m, with a straight run from the start down the long back stretch, could not be more different to the sharp charge to the first turn in mile and a quarter contests. Connections hope that Pakistan Star will resume the professional behaviour that clinched last season’s QEII Cup at the track and trip, as well as the Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).
Karis Teetan will take the reins for a third race in succession, seeking a first victory as the perfect step-up to December’s LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m). He is in accord with Cruz’s view and believes the hustle and bustle of the 2000m start will keep his mount’s mind away from thoughts of dropping anchor.
“The long straight from the 1800 start gave him a lot of time to think, so when he got there, he remembered,” the jockey said. “When he goes to 2000, he has that short run to the turn so there’s been so much going on already that by the time he gets to that point coming out of the turn he’s not thinking about it.”
Teetan actually wants Pakistan Star to repeat some of what he did in the first 200m of the Ladies’ Purse.
“Last time, before he tried to stop, he was off the bit and relaxed. I could feel he was going to go to sleep when Glorious Forever came in front of me – maybe his relaxing on that straight run messed it up. But at the 2000 metres this time I think if he jumps and relaxes like last time it will actually be perfect, he can do his own thing and find his rhythm.
“When he’s won his Group 1s he’s been in a good position, second or third on the rail, ready to strike. I’ll see what Tony says but when he won with William (Buick) and Tommy (Berry) he relaxed in a handy position and he was racing comfortably.”
Race-ready and content
Pakistan Star over-raced after back-tracking rapidly from a handy third to a deep seventh in the Ladies’ Purse. After pressing again for third down the straight, the Shamardal gelding faded wearily from the 200m mark.
“When Karis gave him a slap to keep him going he got fired up and raced too keenly, and once that happened he was never going to finish his race,” Cruz said.
Teetan added: “It’s not easy for a horse to stop and then be up racing on the bridle and still give a kick, especially as the pace was not strong. After he thought about it he was keen on the bridle and that made it difficult for him when it was time to quicken.”
And Cruz expects a big run from a horse that has shown no signs of temperament since his latest incident.
“In the mornings he’s the easiest horse to handle – the quietest. He doesn’t kick or bite or pull, he just follows,” Cruz said.
“He’s in the form to run a good race on Sunday. To me, he seems like he’s developed into a real stayer so he’s going to be better over this distance. Those races at a mile are too short now but the programme is such that I have to run him in those races for race fitness. He should run well and then we’re going to the Vase.”
The BOCHK Jockey Club Cup is one of three features on Sunday, alongside the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (1600m) – in which Beauty Generation will line up – and the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).