THERE are no prizes for guessing which horse will grab the punters’ attention at Sha Tin on Sunday when they line up for the Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (8.05am).
It’s the return of the enigmatic and quirky character Pakistan Star, a horse who has captured the public’s imagination and has earned a cult following since producing a phenomenal last to-first success on his debut back in July 2016.
A replay of that race alone recorded nearly half a million hits on YouTube, and from then on, the gelding, who runs in the colours of the Pakistan national flag, has taken the HK racing scene by storm.
Two more victories followed, plus placed efforts in the 2017 HK Derby, HK Classic Cup and QE11 Cup, but then it all went wrong.
Starting at odds of 1-5, he suddenly pulled himself up in the Group Three Premier Plate at Sha Tin last June, and then stopped again in exactly the same spot when given a subsequent race trial.
The HKJC Stewards’ slapped a ban on him till his racing manners improved, and even famous horse whisperer Monty Roberts was flown in to sort out his brain.
He has been back in work since last October and progressed in three trials (his recent trial over a mile was impressive) looking fresh and fit. He cannot be overlooked.
Trainer John Moore has won nine of the last 12 runnings of the Citi HK Gold Cup and saddles three of the nine contenders.
Moore is having a season to forget, with only 15 winners, and most of his multi-million exports bought for the major races in HK coming up short.
This could be his ‘last chance saloon’ to get his season rolling, and hopefully 2017 HK Derby winner WERTHER can do the trick.
This former HK Horse of the Year, didn’t have the finishing kick but still stayed on strongly when third to rival Seasons Bloom in the Stewards’ Cup over a mile last month.
Back over his optimum distance over which he has won four times he can give his legendary trainer something to finally cheer about.
Seasons Bloom tries his luck again over this trip after finishing third in last year’s HK Derby.
There is no doubt he is the best miler in the country, but there is a worry about him staying the extra distance.
You can ignore the latest run of Time Warp, who missed the start and suffered a troubled trip when unplaced behind Seasons Bloom in the Stewards’ Cup.
Previously he made all in the Group One LONGINES HK Cup over Sunday’s distance in December.
Expect similar tactics again, with Zac Purton dictating the sectional times, and then kicking once turning into the home stretch.
Werther, however, will be ridden closer to the pace this time and won’t let his rival get too far in front.
For anyone looking for a surprise result, keep an eye on GOLD MOUNT, who was formerly known in the UK by the name Primitivo, winner of the 2016 King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Werther 8.05am Sha Tin
Gold Mount e/w 8.05am Sha Tin