Playing against Pakistan Star in the Champions & Chater Cup

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TwinSpires Staff

May 24th, 2019

by J. Keeler Johnson Pakistan Star (#4) might be a fan favorite with a wicked turn-of-foot, but he’ll need to reverse a lengthy losing streak if he’s going to emerge victorious in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (G1) on Sunday, May 26 (8TH Race, Post Time 4:05 a.m. ET), at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. The popular six-year-old was in career-best form at this time last year, successfully timing his brilliant bursts of speed to score back-to-back wins in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) going 2,000 meters and the Champions & Chater Cup traveling 2,400 meters. This season, however, the son of Shamardal has struggled to find his best form, finishing no better than third in his last eight runs. Last time out in the QEII Cup, he seemed perfectly positioned tracking the pace, but flattened out when the real running began and weakened to finish fifth. Pakistan Star will race without his customary blinkers on Sunday after impressively winning a barrier trial without the headgear, but even if he relaxes better this time around, there’s no guarantee he’ll rebound sufficiently to defend his title. The Champions & Chater Cup has attracted a quality field, and it’s going to take a big effort for anyone to defeat Exultant (#1). Suffice to say, Exultant has been on a tear this season. After defeating a high-class international field, which included Pakistan Star, in the 2,400-meter Hong Kong Vase (G1), Exultant rattled off decisive wins in the Centenary Vase (G3) and the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) before failing by less than a length to catch Japanese raider Win Bright in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1). He might have prevailed if not for spinning widest of all off the final turn, causing him to lose ground and position. The return to 2,400 meters should only enhance Exultant’s chances on Sunday, and he’ll have Hong Kong’s leading jockey Zac Purton in the saddle. This looks like a winning combination. Glorious Forever (#2) upset the 2,000-meter Hong Kong Cup (G1) in December, but benefited from securing an uncontested lead against an easier field than the one Exultant conquered in the Hong Kong Vase. When forced to set or track tougher fractions in his next three starts, Glorious Forever finished behind Exultant on every occasion. Furthermore, the presence of Time Warp (#3) – a speedy two-time Group 1 winner who has struggled to regain his best form in recent months – should ensure an honest pace. The wildcard here could be Rise High (#8). A tried-and-true miler, Rise High will be stretching out significantly in distance after finishing behind the sensational Beauty Generation in the Chairman’s Trophy (G2) and Champions Mile (G1). Slow early/fast late race shapes compromised Rise High’s chances on both occasions, so I believe his recent defeats were a bit better than they appear. If Rise High can stay 2,400 meters – and with Arch as his broodmare sire, it’s certainly a possibility – perhaps he can surprise and finish on the board at a big price. I’ll key Exultant on top of my tickets while adding Pakistan Star, Glorious Forever, Rise High, and Dark Dream (#6) underneath: $2.60 Trifecta 1 with 2,4,6,8 with 2,4,6,8 ($31.20) $1.30 Trifecta 1 with 4,6,8 with 4,6,8 ($7.80) Good luck with your plays! PHOTO: Exultant (c) Hong Kong Jokey Club