Drama at the trials, Werther shines but Pakistan Star’s in the doghouse

An eventful 11-batch barrier trial session at Sha Tin on Tuesday saw Werther sparkle in a 1000-metre hit out, but Pakistan Star picked up another black mark for a heel-digging refusal in the 1600m heat.

Werther, Horse of the Year in 2015/16, appeared to be forward in his build-up towards a first-up run in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) on 22 October. The Tavistock six-year-old travelled sweetly down the stands side rail in batch two, a 1000m turf trial, closing off with ease to finish a close-up seventh of 12.

Trainer John Moore was delighted with the three-time G1 winner, likely to be Hong Kong’s leading contender for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in December.

“He trialled impressively and Tommy’s (Berry) leaning towards riding him in the mile race later this month,” Moore said. “We’re of the opinion he’s come to hand much quicker than last season. He’s absolutely thriving at the moment. He’s carrying condition but he’s carrying that condition really well.”

Berry might have considered siding with Helene Paragon in the Sha Tin Trophy but last season’s two-time G1 hero looked in need of his 1000m trial - batch one on the programme. The five-year-old entire moved well enough with cover at the rear of the pack, but required a tap down the shoulder as Berry kept him to his work in the closing stages.

“Helene Paragon had an injury to a hind quarter in the last race he had (third in the G1 Champions Mile). It’s like a footballer with a hamstring, but he’s had work on that,” Moore said.

“His trial was okay this morning so he’ll be in need of the run on the 22nd, but by the time December comes he’ll be ready to show his best in the Hong Kong Mile.”

Another Moore galloper with the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy and the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile on his radar is Joyful Trinity, third in the December feature last year. The Zanzibari gelding impressed with a strong trial, cruising with restrained intent to finish well afore of Helene Paragon in fourth.

“That was surprising because he’s on the big side, but the freshness, the way he trialled was impressive,” Moore said. “I’m thrilled with that; the way he jumped, got handy and travelled - that was great to see. He’ll trial again on the 13th and he’s going to be very competitive in the Sha Tin Trophy.”

Fellow trainer Tony Cruz, meanwhile, was left scratching his head after Pakistan Star repeated the antics of his final run last term, when he refused to race initially and then galloped down the home straight tailed off in the G3 Premier Plate (1800m). The four-year-old reprised that display almost stride for stride this morning.

The talented Shamardal gelding once again stopped soon after the break and only relented to advance for jockey Joao Moreira once the other runners had passed out of sight.

“He did exactly the same as before,” the champion jockey said. “It’s a shame; he did it at the same place. I tried not to let him stop totally, but even when the other horses were gone, he was refusing to go. He’d go a couple of strides and speed up, slow down, speed up; and then once he got going he was fine.

“He feels good, too,” he added. “He’s fit and feels really good in himself - there’s just something going on his mind.”

Pakistan Star in actual race mode, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club