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Three wins would be the Charm

Trainer Ong raises Pacific Charm to Class 4, fancies King Zoustar, Per Incrown as well

Jason Ong had thought he might get one more Class 5 run out of Pacific Charm after he went back-to-back within a week.

Under Vlad Duric, the Maurice five-year-old first ran his rivals ragged over 1,200m on turf on Feb 11.

Ong backed him up the following week, again over six furlongs but on Polytrack.

It felt like deja vu when he easily took up the running, again for Duric, showing his rivals a clean set of heels when he shot clear at the top of the straight.

He won by just over three lengths, but might have matched the previous five-length margin had Duric not eased down.

“He was up 7kg. I thought I’d keep him sharp and run him again,” said Ong.

“He had a good draw and Duric is a good forward rider who knows how to switch his horses on.

“After that win, I was hoping I’d still get one more run in Class 5 with him.”

Unfortunately, the handicapper would not allow it. He was so impressed with the way the reinvigorated galloper had bounced back that he slapped him with eight points for the 3¼-length win in 1min 11.85sec shouldering 59kg.

Prior to the two-in-a-row, Pacific Charm had struggled to find the line again since his maiden win for Michael Clements in October 2022, when then known as Lucky Charm – one of Pacific Stable’s very first acquisitions.

All of a sudden, his rating had shot up by 17 points to 50 in the space of two starts, ruling him out of Class 5 company henceforth.

“We trainers always try to squeeze as many wins as possible from our horses,” said Ong.

“The longer they stay in a lower class, the better. I didn’t think he would get so many points after his second win.”

Either way, the 2023 Singapore champion trainer might have eventually taken that Class 4 path.

The significantly lower handicap is a major draw, while Pacific Charm’s last-start timing also told Ong he was ready for the next step-up.

All the hype will be centred around Daniel Meagher’s unbeaten Lim’s Saltoro but, while Ong respects the three-from-three Shamexpress four-year-old, he is not overawed.

“My horse ran close to Class 4 timing at his second win. He deserves a shot,” he said.

“Besides he will carry a light weight. He has shown so much improvement.

“Lim’s Saltoro is obviously a rising young horse. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes.

“It’s an exciting race but my horse is in form and, hopefully, he can run well again.”

Barrier No. 10 may be a foe for speed merchants, but Ong is unfazed.

“He’s got really good speed. The wide draw’s not really a concern,” he said.

“Besides, he’s mentally strong now. He’s not a dumb horse who must go all out in front, he’s smart enough to take a seat.

“He does not overrace, he can drop back if it’s logical to do so.”

Ong has also entered noted frontrunner King Zoustar and Per Incrown who, despite being a rising nine-year-old, is in red-hot form having also claimed his last two races.

“King Zoustar’s a front runner, too, but he’s a lot more versatile. He’s drawn better in three,” said Ong.

“It all depends on the speed, he can also take a seat. As for Per Incrown, he’s very mature now and has gained a lot of confidence.

“At his last start, he was caught wide but he still ran on strongly.

“I really like the way he is now. I’m looking forward to his run.”

With Duric – he rides Pacific MV (57.5kg) for David Kok instead – unable to make Pacific Charm’s 50.5kg handicap, Ong has called upon his trusty local lightweight jockey, Koh Teck Huat, for the ride.

Bruno Queiroz is booked on King Zoustar while Ong is not changing the winning formula at Per Incrown’s last two wins – retaining apprentice jockey Jerlyn Seow.

“I have three good chances and three good jockeys,” said Ong, who tops the log on 18 wins, eight clear of Tim Fitzsimmons and Richard Lim.

With solid chances like Healthy Baby, July and Roda Robot among his large squad of 22 runners, including standby starter Outfit, the Singaporean has a good chance of cementing his lead further.

manyan@sph.com.sg

HORSE RACING