Pakistan Star will make his seasonal reappearance in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy. Photo by HKJC.


Pakistan Star is happy and ready to show it in Sunday’s Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy

By David Morgan, HKJC.



Tony Cruz expects two things from Pakistan Star (128lb) in Sunday’s G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m); firstly, that Hong Kong’s champion stayer will dish up a dash of his trademark brilliance, and secondly, that the gelding’s past delinquency will not resurface.

The Shamardal gelding displayed fine form in a barrier trial last week, suggesting a big first-up run could be on the cards. His trainer believes so, even though the two-time G1 winner will face Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation (133lb) at that rival’s pet distance, a mile.

“I expect him to be right there in the finish and I think he’s got a shot at winning too,” Cruz said.

“I’m really happy with his condition, he’s been doing everything I’ve asked of him and he’s been doing it nicely. He has the quality and he has the speed at the finish, so I’m not worried about the mile.”

That despite the fact that Pakistan Star heads in off a summer break following two standout career wins in the QEII Cup and Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at 2000m and 2400m, respectively.



In fact, Cruz is using Sunday’s 1600m contest as a base platform from which to launch towards the 2400m option at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 9 December.

“I’m going for the Hong Kong Vase,” the handler said. “I think he’s a good enough stayer to take on the Europeans.”

Jockey Karis Teetan accepts that Beauty Generation will be tough to beat this weekend, even accounting for the 5lb concession Pakistan Star will receive.

“He’s a very good horse, Beauty Generation, and if he gets his own way in front again he’s a very difficult horse to run down,” he said.

But the Mauritian ace also has faith in Pakistan Star’s innate talent.

“We ride so many horses day after day and you don’t often get horses that give you the feel he does,” he said, ahead of his first race ride on the German-bred. “He’s a proper athlete, you can feel the quality – when you sit on a horse like him you can feel the difference between them and a normal horse.

“It’s the way they move, the way they carry themselves, it’s a different feeling and I felt it the first time I sat on him. He’s a true gentleman, a proper horse.”


Pakistan Star lands the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup in style last start.
Pakistan Star lands the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup in style last start.


Reform complete?

Pakistan Star looks a reformed character these days. The mulish antics that saw him refuse to run are a year and more behind him and Cruz is not wavering in his belief that Hong Kong’s champion stayer is unlikely to relapse into past misbehaviour.

Cruz puts the reason partly down to Winningli, retired at the end of last season as a Class 5 maiden after 25 Hong Kong starts – he is Pakistan Star’s new best friend.

“We’ve had no more issues – I got his mind back because I got a partner for him and he’s happy now. He does all of his work now with Winningli and both horses are happy,” Cruz revealed.

“Pakistan star does much better now that he has a horse to keep him company; he has that familiar company with him and it’s made him a different horse.”

Pakistan Star did, however, miss the break at the start of last Friday’s (12 October) barrier trial before rolling home to finish close behind the leaders. Given his past, that raised questions as to whether he might still be prone to dropping himself out if not in the mood.

“He was just a little bit impatient inside the gate,” Teetan explained. “They put him in a little bit early and he just missed it, there was nothing else. He just worked through them though – not many horses would jump a little bit slow and work through them like that, and in the straight he still pulled me all the way to the line.”



And the rider is going into the race with a positive mind-set based on his own experience with the horse.

 “Even the first time I rode him, if you didn’t know he’d done those things, you wouldn’t even say he’s got problems. I’m pretty sure Tony and connections have put this behind now,” he said.

“I’m going to ride him like a normal horse and I’m pretty sure he’s going to let down in the straight.”

The 14-runner field features some of the best horses in Hong Kong, with stablemate and fellow two-time G1 winner Time Warp (128lb) also in there along with past Horse of the Year Werther (127lb), G1 winner Seasons Bloom (127lb) and two of last term’s star four-year-old’s Singapore Sling (117lb) and Nothingilikemore (113lb). The exciting up-and-comer Rise High has crept in with equal bottom-weight of 113lb.

Cruz will also saddle Beauty Only (124lb), a G1 winner and former Champion Miler, whose form last season was below his best until an upturn late in the campaign. The seven-year-old closed to fourth behind Beauty Generation in the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) on 1 October.

“Beauty Only wasn’t far off last time,” Cruz said. “He’s in much better shape this season; his coat was never right last season, it was really dull and we didn’t know why, but this season his coat is really bright. He’s a different horse.”

The 10-race card also features the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) in which sprint stars Ivictory, Mr Stunning and Hot King Prawn will lock horns.


Insayshable, Glorious clash


Insayshable wins on his return at Happy Valley.
Insayshable wins on his return at Happy Valley.


A high-quality undercard includes a pair of interesting Class 2 handicaps showcasing some rising talents. The concluding Grand Seiko Excellent Handicap (1400m) features the likes of the highly-regarded Good Standing and Simply Brilliant, while the IWC Excellent Handicap (1800m) sees a clash between the potential top stayers Glorious Forever and Insayshable.

Glorious Forever, Time Warp’s younger full-brother, set the track record for 2000m at Sha Tin last term, while Insayshable, whose Hong Kong Derby hopes were scuppered because of injury, looked the part in a first-up win at Happy Valley on 3 October.

“It was a very strong win first time up at 1800m and I’m looking for improvement from him. He’s rated 97 but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go higher,” trainer John Size said.

“He seems in very good health and should go extremely well, but anyone who breaks a track record is going to be hard to beat and Glorious Forever looks a pretty strong horse.”

Sunday’s action at Sha Tin starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Piaget Excellent Handicap (2000m).