Last-start G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup winner Pakistan Star is likely to start a heavy favourite for Sunday’s (27 May) G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin, but while he may carry the weight of public expectation, his trainer Tony Cruz says that the Shamardal five-year-old may not even be the stable’s number one seed for the HK$10 million feature.
“All three of my horses have very strong chances, but to me, Exultant is the one,” Cruz said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (25 May). “He’s the one who has won big over 2400m, whereas Pakistan Star hasn’t been to the trip yet. I’m hoping I can finish 1-2-3, though.”
Group 1-placed Exultant won the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) last time out with subsequent winner Prawn Baba six lengths astern. Gold Mount, second to Pakistan Star in the QEII Cup, makes up Cruz’s talented trio.
Exultant entered the Four-Year-Old Classic Series as one of the leading seeds. He ran well in each of the three legs – fourth in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, second in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and third in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) – but he showed a new lease of life when stepping up to the mile and a half for the first time last start.
That day, jockey Zac Purton made a daring mid-race move, whipping around the field to take up the running passing the 1200m. It showed a level of race sense that the Irish import had yet to demonstrate in Hong Kong, and Cruz believes that the galloper – formerly named Irishcorrespondent – may now be able to make all if circumstances permit.
“He’s come through the race very well, he’s in top form,” Cruz said. “I think he will run a big race again, he’s just as fit as last time. He showed last time that he could be ridden on the pace and I think he just has one speed so in this race, where there is no speed, he could be the one to take it up.”