Excellent Boy gets his head together after stable drama
Excellent Boy gave the Caspar Fownes stable a late-season highlight in the final Sha Tin race for the season yesterday and the wonder was not so much that he won, but that he made the race at all.
Fownes revealed that Excellent Boy was '90 per cent sure to be scratched' on Monday from the Sha Tin Mile Trophy, but his team moved mountains to ensure the New Zealand-bred gelding made it to the post fit and well.
'I'm serious, that's how close we were to pulling him out,' Fownes said after the race. 'I was walking through the stables, doing my routine inspections, and found Excellent Boy in a terrible state - he was horribly upset, sweating buckets and pawing the ground in his stall.
'We called in the vets and we thought we'd have to take him out of the race for sure,' Fownes said. 'But then I paused, took a deep breath, and said, 'hang on a minute, let's get to the bottom of this', and fortunately we did.'
Once the gelding returned to normal, rested properly and his behaviour stabilised overnight, he was declared fit to race, and a perfect Olivier Doleuze ride made it happen on the track, with Excellent Boy (HK$153.50) swooping from the back of the field to score by a half length from Sunny King (Eric Saint-Martin).
Fownes said workers who were busy with bamboo scaffolding behind Excellent Boy's stall were unwitting responsible for giving the six-year-old the mental spin-out.
'We took him out, away from the commotion, gave him a hose, walked him and settled him down,' Fownes said. 'At the height of his upset, his heart rate was 140 [beats per minute], but soon it had lowered to 80 and we knew we had it under control. His behaviour was like a horse having a colic attack, but we knew it wasn't that because his bowel movements were normal and there was no sound coming from his abdomen.'
Fownes proffered his thanks to Jockey Club veterinarians Michael Hurley and Peter Curl, who helped in the 'excellent' recovery effort.
'A special thanks to those guys, and all our team, it was a great way to end the Sha Tin season with a horse who really did deserve to win a feature race like this,' he said.
Excellent Boy's previous winning form (six wins) was all at Happy Valley, though he did run third in this race 12 months ago, behind Egyptian Ra and Goody.
'We know he's a very good horse, but it's almost frightening how good he might have been if he was 100 per cent sound,' Fownes said. 'He's had chips removed from his knees, problems with his joints and a piece of bone about 25cm long taken from one hind leg. If he was totally sound, he'd have been a Group One horse.'
Excellent Boy, a son of the prolific sire Deputy Governor, is the second Class One racer in Hong Kong to have been produced by The Essence, a former Listed winner of five races in Australia. The other was Lucky Paradise (by Flying Spur), trained initially by Tony Cruz and later by Moore.