On Derby Day 12 months ago, Pakistan Star stamped himself as a horse of the future with a strong second in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) to Rapper Dragon.
A year on, he is the support act rather than the main event, but jockey Joao Moreira still believes Pakistan Star can take another step towards Group 1 glory when he tackles the race named for his Derby conqueror, the Class 1 Rapper Dragon Handicap (1600m), at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“I really think he’s a Group 1 winner in waiting, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his opportunity and he gets everything to suit,” Moreira said at Sha Tin on Friday morning.
“He has run very well in some very good races in the past. I was extremely happy with the way he ran the other day, first-up, and it confirmed the high opinion I have had of him.”
That run, with Matthew Chadwick in the plate, came in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), where the Tony Cruz-trained Pakistan Star, first-up for eight months, finished fourth to stablemate Time Warp. It was the first time the two-minute mark had been broken for the 10 furlongs at Sha Tin.
“Based on that run, you’d think that he will go off favourite in Sunday’s race,” Moreira said.
“I obviously wasn’t riding but I watched his run closely. He was a bit fractious in the gates but he was still able to pull out a good performance. Sure, he goes back to 1600m on Sunday, but I look at it in a good way, because if you have a horse that can deliver good form over a longer distance and they can step back in trip, you’d think he’s going to run even better second-up.”
Moreira’s last raceday ride aboard Pakistan Star came in last year’s G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m), when the Shamardal gelding came to an unexpected halt soon after the start.
“I don’t have any worries about him now, he seems to be very settled, he has trialled well over the 1600m so I think he’s ready to run a big race,” Moreira said. “He’s a very good horse and I hope we see his best.”
Pakistan Star (133lb) is top-weight in the seven-horse field, with 2016 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only and that race’s 2017 runner-up Western Express close behind with 132lb. Caspar Fownes-trained pair Southern Legend (128lb) and Joyful Trinity (121lb), Benno Yung’s hulking grey Pingwu Spark (119lb) and the John Moore-prepared Booming Delight (118lb) round out the numbers.
The Rapper Dragon Handicap is the third of 10 races and comes up at 2pm local (5pm AEDT), while the feature, the HK$18million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), is scheduled to jump at 4:35pm (7:35pm AEDT).
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club