Duke puts Fownes 'over the moon'
'We had to sweat on the run through in the straight so I got pretty excited watching the race'
A brilliant display from jockey Patrick Payne snared Caspar Fownes his biggest win yet in the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup over 1,200m at Sha Tin yesterday as the trainer's boom first season moved seamlessly into a great start to his second term.
Fownes and fellow second-year trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing took the opening quinella on the same card last year with their first starters and have continued to set the foundation for a great rivalry in this season and those to come.
Yesterday, the pair took half the racecard between them and provided a thrilling one-two finish to the day's feature event as Fownes-trained The Duke overpowered hot favourite Town Of Fionn in the final stages.
'What a superb ride,' said a thrilled Fownes after Payne brought The Duke through a series of narrow openings to swoop through the field from last to tackle Town Of Fionn (Glyn Schofield) just as the favourite got the better of Planet Ruler and looked to have the race.
'The plan was to take The Duke out the back if the speed was on, as it looked before the race, though really I left it to Paddy to ride the horse how he felt. He's a great jockey and he knows the horse,'' Fownes said.
'We had to sweat on the run through in the straight so I got pretty excited watching the race but this horse just gives so much - when the runs did come, he just pounced.'
The Duke's win was a bonus for the Jockey Club, as he has been a fantastic advertisement for the club's international sale where he was purchased to be trained by Fownes' father, former trainer Lawrie.
'I selected him there and he has been a dream horse for his owner. He has won races at two, three, four and now five years old, at both tracks, wet and dry and he just keeps surprising us,' Fownes said.
'Just when you think he can't improve any more, he does and I think this season we'll really see the best of him.
'As a four-year-old last year, we had to experiment with him at longer trips because you only get one chance at the Derby. It wasn't his thing, but we tried. This season, he'll be kept to sprint races and we are going to see him at his best.'
Fownes said he had earmarked the Chief Executive's Cup some time ago and was 'over the moon' to see the plan come off.
Jockey Schofield, however, said the gelding had not disappointed him, despite finishing second.
'Not at all. He was kept a bit wide - probably not a disadvantage the way the track was playing but he was still up there contesting the race all the way while the winner was able to relax and get the last run at him,' Schofield said.
'You couldn't be unhappy with my horse. He was there, he raced well, he was just beaten on the day and hey, don't forget the winner's a pretty good horse, too.'
Shum was equally philosophical about the defeat which put an end to already slim hopes of Town Of Fionn being asked to run in the Sprinters' Stakes in Japan on October 3.
'Of course, I am disappointed not to win but you have to give credit to Caspar and Patrick. They are a great team, they had The Duke very fit and he was a bit too good on the day,' Shum said.
'Town Of Fionn will still run on October 3, but it will be here at Sha Tin.'
Fownes and Payne racked up a double on the card with The Duke, having denied Shum a win 30 minutes earlier in the sixth event when Northern Rose outgamed Harvey Mudd.
'Northern Rose is a lovely animal but unfortunately his racing career has always been held back by internal haemorrhaging and we won't ever see what he's capable of,' Fownes lamented.
'There isn't a lot we can do about it but he is a fresh horse - both wins now have been after a break - and I have to just keep him ticking over without him doing too much in his work.'