Three the magic number for Fownes as he lands treble and rare tierce
Trainer Caspar Fownes reaffirmed his status as the King Of The Valley last night with a winning treble and a rare stable tierce after giving a simple set of instructions to all his riders - find the fence.
'With a C rail, I just told all my jockeys tonight to get to the rail. After that, they can play it by ear but the rail is gold on these nights whether you're up the front or out the back,' said Fownes, whose close knowledge of the quirky city track has seen him without peer there in recent seasons.
The rewards came last night with wins by Famagusta and Viva Fighter under Brett Prebble and Brilliant Flash for Olivier Doleuze, and Fownes had the added pleasure of saddling up the two horses which chased home Viva Fighter in the Kwun Tong Handicap (1,650m), Money Man and I'm No Square.
'How the luck has changed in a week - it isn't that long since I was in a drought and now the luck has changed and it's raining winners,' said Fownes.
'The tierce result was nice, I thought they all had a great show and while Viva Fighter was the winner tonight, Money Man and I'm No Square both showed that they are close to winning again. Olivier actually thought he was a bit unlucky on I'm No Square as he got squeezed for running in the straight.
'But Brett's ride on Viva Fighter was the key to him winning. He drew gate 10, but Brett does it brilliantly here from the wide gates, ducking over behind them then getting up the fence. He did it last week on Noble Conqueror and just failed, but with a bit of speed on Viva Fighter was able to convert that ride into a win.'
Early winner Famagusta has now won two of three starts and neither Fownes nor Prebble was surprised that he was able to take a box seat position behind the leader from a better draw last night after getting back in his first two starts.
'He's so much the better for the experience of those two runs and Caspar wanted me to use the good draw tonight and have him closer and it was no problem for Famagusta to do it,' Prebble said. 'He feels like he's ready to go to the bigger track at Sha Tin now and 1,400m.'
The Ricky Yiu Poon-fie-trained Elfhelm (Zac Purton) is an odds-on favourite now to win the HK$650,000 prize for this season's Happy Valley Million Challenge after taking his points score to 55 with a win in race eight, giving Yiu a double after Harb (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) had won the second.
Elfhelm's 15 points for the Cha Kwo Ling Handicap places him 19 clear of his nearest rival, Noble Conqueror, and someone is going to have to win at least one race at the Valley before the end of next month to take the title from the eight-year-old.
'He's an eight-year-old but he didn't start racing until late and doesn't have many miles in his legs,' said Yiu. 'From gate four I thought he might have been closer in the run but I left it up to Zac and he's ridden him perfectly.'
Yiu's focus now shifts to Sha Tin on Sunday when champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom will line up as a very hot favourite for the Centenary Sprint Cup, but the trainer himself will not be present - he leaves today to attend the Karaka yearling sale in New Zealand.
Mutiples were the order of the night with Anthony Delpech the night's king of Class Five, landing Spy King for Peter Ng Bik-kuen in the opener then adding Dongguan Victory for Me Tsui Yu-sak in race three.
Spy King's win would not have been remarkable from a good draw as a winner over the Valley 1,200m two runs back for Delpech, except that he was returning from a heart irregularity at his most recent appearance in November.
'Peter's done a fantastic job getting him back like this,' Delpech said. 'You know, I cantered him on Tuesday morning and I couldn't believe how well he felt. He felt even better than he had when he did win here last October so I knew he would be running a good race tonight.'