Steve Moran

A postcard from Lan Kwai Fong….wishing you were here – Steve

Just as sure that Pakistan Star (Shamardal) might be freakishly good despite the fact that he’s won just three-times in ten starts since that internet congesting debut win in July last year.

East meets West on every corner but you’re unlikely to meet a miscreant intent on relieving you of your wallet. I love the vibe. No hint of anger or aggression outside the myriad of bars and restaurants which overflow into the streets. Bouncers are a rarity. Nobody telling you what you can and cannot do. Young blokes self police. Fall down and someone’s likely to pick you up. The only place you’re likely to be mugged is at the races – if you bet against Moreira!

The streets are busy and full of purpose. Not unlike the racetracks. The races are generally, genuinely run. Not the ugly stop-start stuff we we see at home. Although Sunday’s feature – the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) – was an exception.

The turnover is colossal as is the prize money which that generates. An all tote system and no corporate bookmakers, with their wretched ads, will do that for you. Although it does have to contend with illegal betting exchange Citibet which reportedly has an annual turnover of US$50 billion on sports and racing but who would really know. And it’s hardly likely that the HKJC turnover would double overnight if the credit bet offering Citibet were to disappear.

Around $240,000,000 was pumped through the Hong Kong tote on Sunday as Moreira claimed the major prize money spoils with five wins including the feature on Neorealism (Neo Universe) – trained by Noriyuki Hori who seems to have a bit of his own magic. Japan’s Bart Cummings perhaps, minus the one-liners. Not fond of speaking to the media, our Hori, so in that respect he’s a bit more Jack Denham than Bart.

Neorealism took the honours, but I’d suggest Pakistan Star claimed the glory. And I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had Moreira, or for that matter Zac Purton, been aboard the son of Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway).

Pakistan Star, the notoriously slow beginner, began better than he ever had before. He was equal leader at the winning post the first time and then restrained by Silvestre de Sousa and naturally then started to over-race.

I suspect Moreira or Purton would have rolled the dice and taken advantage of his accelerated exit from the gates, gone to the front and let him roll. Especially given the pedestrian speed. And I fancy it would have been ‘see you later – game over’. That’s of course ridiculously speculative but had they – or indeed de Sousa – done so, it would have at least established whether he could be ridden in such a fashion in future. He didn’t win the way he was ridden so there’d have been nothing lost.

Pakistan Star was two lengths off the leader The United States (Galileo) at the 1000 metres. But that’s when Moreira scuttled around them on Neorealism and, all of sudden, Pakistan Star was five to six lengths off them. He had the temerity to run his last 400 metres in 21.95 seconds but it was mission impossible.

And this from a horse who’s raced at least once every month since September. Surely a break and spring time (or autumn there) honour and glory beckons.

He could win a Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m), Pakistan Star. Not to mention that his stablemate Gold Mount (Excellent Art), third in Sunday’s Queen Mother Memorial Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) and who raced as Primitivo when a Royal Ascot winner last year, could win a Caulfield or Melbourne Cup. But I don’t see trainer Tony Cruz bringing either to Melbourne.

It may well be a different story with John Moore’s pair Eagle Way (More Than Ready) and Helene Charisma (Air Chief Marshal) who quinellaed the Queen Mother Memorial Cup. Moore remains desperate to win a major race in Australia and Eagle Way, the horse they were left with after son George paid $200,000 for him at the 2014 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, might be the one.

Moore entrusted Bryan Guy with Eagle Way and he prepared him to win the 2016 Queensland Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) – the race in which Werther (Tavistock), Moore’s 2016 Hong Kong Derby (Listed, 2000m) and Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner and third in Sunday’s feature, was runner-up.

The United States ran soundly enough at Sha Tin, finishing three and a half lengths behind Neorealism. He was twice that margin behind Winx (Street Cry) at his previous run if that provides a measure of anything. I suspect it does.

He’s already entered pre-export quarantine and will have a total of 80 days quarantine before settling in his new South African home. He came through the race very well as did Neorealism and the French visitor Dicton (Lawman) who simply found the ground too firm.

Everywhere you look, on a Hong Kong race day, there’s an Aussie angle and that’s quite aside from trainers like John Size and Moore (1-2 on the premiership) and the six Australian jockeys who were in action there last weekend including Purton, the injured Nash Rawiller (who was having a good year) and Sam Clipperton whose debut season has been excellent and worthy of acknowledgement. His 32 winners has him challenging for third place on the table.

Next year, the aforementioned trainers, along with David Hall, will be joined by Michael Freedman in the ever expanding Hong Kong scene which is expected to include having horses trained from Conghua in China by July next year. Freedman is widely expected to have a major impact while there are similar expectations with new Chinese trainer Frankie Lor given his grounding as assistant to Moore and Size. Lor will complete his four-year tenure with Size at the end of the 2016-17 season on 16 July.

Australian bred horses won five of the ten races on the card. They included Relentless Me (Statue Of Liberty), a $47,000 purchase at the 2015 Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale, who won at his Hong Kong debut. His halfsister Viddora (I Am Invincible) won the recent Irwin Stakes in Adelaide.

He beat another Hong Kong newcomer in the now Richard Gibson trained All You Need who was previously with Cindy Alderson. He’s a gelding by Danerich (Danehill) from the Viscount (Quest For Fame) mare Metung Belle owned by Lynne and Colin Alderson.

Ambitious Heart (Captain Sonador), the $170,000 brother to Hong Kong Derby fourth Seasons Bloom, was also a winner and the Derby form certainly held up via Pakistan Star’s performance while the first five home in the Queen Mother had all contested the HKJC four-year-old Classic.

Kingsfield (Time Thief), a bargain $12,000 Inglis Scone Select Yearling Sale pick-up, was also an Australian bred winner on the card while Lucky Dollar (All American) was second on debut. He won two races in Victoria, as The States, for the Hawkes’ training team.

And from the Australian origin perspective there will certainly be great interest in next week’s International Group One’s with Rapper Dragon (Street Boss) and Mr Stunning (Exceed And Excel) likely to start favourite, respectively, in the Champions Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) and Chairman’s Sprint Prize (Gr 1, 1200m). The Sprint, indeed, features eight Australian-bred runners and two from New Zealand including the wonderful Aerovelocity (Pins) – a Group One winner in three countries who’ll be retired after Sunday’s contest.

Mr Stunning, was bred in Victoria by Makybe Racing and Breeding and sold for NZ$250,000 at the 2014 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale, while Rapper Dragon emerged from Gooree Park Stud, New South Wales. Rapper Dragon was bred and raced initially by Henry Cojuangco – brother to Gooree Park Stud’s owner, Eduardo – who sold the horse to Hong Kong shortly before he died in 2015.

Anyway, I’m off to the Rooftop Bar at Wooloomooloo Restaurant in Hennessey Road. Make sure you visit it when you come over. And bring your horse if you have one remotely good enough. You’ll be treated like a king by the HKJC and even if you run only fifth, as The United States did, you’ll pocket around $110,000 for your trouble.