Pakistan Star holds all the aces
The final Hong Kong meeting of the 2016 calendar year is set to have major implications for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series as a number of potential contenders for the Hong Kong Classic Mile step out at Sha Tin today, headlined by PAKISTAN STAR in the Griffin Trophy.
The Griffin Trophy - a 1,400m race - brings together this year's exciting three-year-olds sourced from both hemispheres with the stipulation that they are unraced abroad.
As a German three-year-old, the Tony Cruz-trained Pakistan Star has only three months until he faces his big test in the 2017 BMW Hong Kong Derby and less than four weeks until the first race of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile to be run on Jan 22.
On paper, it is a race that looks tailor-made for the son of Shamardal, despite three defeats somewhat lowering the boom that once surrounded him.
His rating of 91 puts him well into Class 2 and is far superior to other recent winners of the race, and of his six rivals, only two others have won.
With the race run under set weights, he appears pitched in compared to a typical handicap, while two-time champion jockey Joao Moreira jumps aboard for the first time.
His nearest rival in the official handicap ratings is John Moore-trained Sea Jade on 80, coming off two straight wins over 1,200m at Happy Valley.
Jockey Zac Purton believes that Sea Jade is in with a chance of bringing Pakistan Star undone - especially since Purton is likely to send the son of Star Witness to the lead in the small field with Moreira on Pakistan Star likely to be near the tail.
"Well, I hope I can beat him," Purton said at Sha Tin trackwork on Friday morning, noting that Pakistan Star's grand final will come in March, whereas Sea Jade's classic hopes will not be tested until next season as a horse from the Southern Hemisphere.
Pakistan Star is not going to be that far away in this race and, with the turn of foot he’s got, he might just blow us all away.Zac Purton
"Pakistan Star is not going to be that far away in this race and, with the turn of foot he's got, he might just blow us all away.
"But if he doesn't turn up on the day, then my horse is going to be there. We hope Sea Jade can bring his current form to Sha Tin.
"He's definitely a horse that is racing with a bit of confidence at the moment, he seems to be going well. It's obviously not an easy race, but he's in there with a chance.
"The trip might be a query, but I think he should be able to see out the 1,400m.
"He's a bit of a galloper, he's got a long action and he hasn't been stopping in his 1,200m races at the Valley so he should be able to handle it."
The Griffin Trophy is the third race on a bumper 11-event card at Sha Tin today and is set to jump at 1:30pm.