Former Hong Kong star Packing Eagle wins Sweynesse Stakes

Packing Eagle
Packing Eagle, seen here as Packing Pins in Hong Kong, scored its first win in New Zealand since transferring to the Cruz Stables in Cambridge. Photo: HKJC

PACKING Eagle, known as Packing Pins in Hong Kong, was a brilliant winner of the $70,000 WFA Sweynesse Stakes at Rotorua on Saturday.

The former Hong Kong star was good enough to run in the Hong Kong Mile last year, but a drop in form saw the seven-year-old return to New Zealand where it was bred.

Now with Trevor and Martin Cruz, the son of Pins was overlooked by punters at $17, but the return to a dry track was always going to help the seven-time race winner.

It had previously run seventh and 11th in two New Zealand starts on rain-affected tracks, but some sunny weather was a welcome sight to its connections and it burst through runners late in the race to establish its class.

“We’ve been waiting for a decent track for awhile and he finally showed what we still think he can do,” co-trainer Trevor Cruz said. “We always knew he had the ability he showed in Hong Kong and if we can rediscover that form on a good track, that’s our main hope.”

Packing Eagle was at its best in Hong Kong when ridden just off the speed and that’s exactly how the race went to plan on Saturday in New Zealand.

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“He always sits nicely off the speed, he races best in that position. We were quite fortunate that there was pace on today and it’s worked out in his favour,” Cruz said.

Winning jockey Trudy Thornton echoed Cruz’ thoughts about the improved track conditions and believes that was the reason for its failure at Hastings last start.

“He is a serious horse and he got the track to suit today,” Thornton said. “At Hastings he just struggled in the ground, but today he feels amazing on that good surface.

“It couldn’t have panned out better. I got off at the right time… he got a nice run and turning for home I was confident.

“I had a lot of horse underneath me and he’s a powerful galloper.”

Thornton was under the impression Packing Eagle might return to Hong Kong with a good performance on Saturday.

“If he fronted up he might go back to Hong Kong,” Collett said. “I’ll just put my hand up for there.”

Cruz was different plans for the sprinter, which could include the Railway Stakes at Ellerslie in the summer.

“We’ll just look for weight-for-age races, ideally the race in January at Ellerslie (Railway Stakes),” Cruz said. “That woudl really suit him, but we’ll take it race-by-race now and see if the tracks come right.”

Cruz was worried about racing on the left-handed track at Rotorua, given all of its form in Hong Kong came on the right-handed track at Sha Tin.

“He races well on right-handed tracks, left-hand is a concern, always has been, but today he showed us he can still do it,” Cruz said.

“Ideally we want to keep him going at 1200m-1400m. The mile is the track is dry would be a stretch.

“He’s a sprinter, not a miler.”

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