Trainer Tony Cruz expects two things from Pakistan Star in tomorrow's Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap over 1,600m.
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 Group 1 winner will face Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation at that rival's pet distance.
"I expect him to be right there in the finish and I think he's got a shot at winning, too," said Cruz. "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 over 2,000m and 2,400m, respectively.
In fact, Cruz is using tomorrow's 1,600m contest as a base platform from which to launch towards the 2,400m option at the Longines Hong Kong International Races on Dec 9.
"I'm going for the Hong Kong Vase," said the handler. "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, even accounting for the 5lb (2.27kg) 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 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 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. He does all of his work now with Winningli and both horses are happy," Cruz revealed.
Teetan is going into the race with a positive mindset 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 Group 1 winner Time Warp also in there along with past Horse of the Year Werther, Group 1 winner Seasons Bloom and two of last term's star four-year-old's, Singapore Sling and Nothingilikemore. The exciting up-and-comer Rise High has crept in with equal bottomweight of 113lb.
Cruz will also saddle Beauty Only, a Group 1 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 Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap over 1,400m on Oct 1.
"He's in much better shape this season," said Cruz. "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." - HKJC
•Tomorrow's Hong Kong (Sha Tin) form analysis was not available at press time.