Pakistan Star Passes Final Exam, Set for HK Gold Cup Comebacker

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Pakistan Star set to return to action Feb. 25 | HKJC photo

By Alan Carasso

Pakistan Star (Ger) (Shamardal) handily defeated former Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}) in a 1600-metre barrier trial at Sha Tin Racecourse Tuesday morning, the final hurdle ahead of a presumptive green light from the Hong Kong Jockey Club for a return to racing in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) Sunday week.

As has been well documented, the ‘TDN Rising Star‘ pulled himself up when heavily favoured in the G3 Premier Plate H. last June and again in an October trial, earning himself a ban from the local stewards after stopping at the same spot on the track each time. The Tony Cruz trainee was ‘sentenced’ to a spell and would only be allowed to return if able to prove that he was over his antics. Having successfully completed a pair of jump-outs, Pakistan Star defeated stable companion Romantic Touch (Aus) (Northern Meteor {Aus}) in a Feb. 6 barrier trial and Tuesday’s specially arranged heat was to be his final hurdle.

Drawn gate five in a field of six, Pakistan Star–who has had his fair share of issues in the stalls–jumped without incident once again and settled in second, just off the flank of Werther, the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup runner-up who will face Pakistan Star in the Gold Cup. Shaken up by Joao Moreira with a quarter mile to travel, the bay quickened up nicely through a final 400m in :22.3 and pulled away to score by 3 1/2 lengths (video). Last-out G1 Stewards’ Cup hero Seasons Bloom (Aus) (Captain Sonador {Aus}) ran on well for third and will stretch out to the mile and a quarter for the Gold Cup.

With Moreira committed to Seasons Bloom, Matthew Chadwick will regain the mount on Pakistan Star. The locally born jockey rode the gelding to improbable wins in his first two career starts, but was beaten at long odds-on in his next three runs.

“It is going to be like getting on a different horse because when I rode him he was so immature, he hadn’t even grown fully,” Chadwick told South China Morning Post. “Now you can see how much bigger he is. He carries himself in a different way with that stature he has. As much as I would like to think I know him mentally, how he feels physically and how he races will be completely different.”

Pakistan Star’s two tries over the 2000m have resulted in runner-up efforts in the Hong Kong Derby and in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup. While those efforts were the better part of a year ago, Cruz is not unduly concerned about the lack of recency.

“The horse is ready to rock ‘n’ roll,” the conditioner told SCMP. “Those two grass trials were strong. I think he is pretty tuned up. Sure, he lacks racing fitness but that trial today was very good. There is a 1400m Group 1 on the same day, but I think that is too short for him.”

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