Fownes and Size turn up the heat on Moore
Reigning champion trainer John Size may have been out of luck and thousands of kilometres away yesterday, but that didn't stop Caspar Fownes and him from turning up the heat in the trainers' championship at Sha Tin.
With six meetings to run, John Moore leads by five from Fownes, who scored with Natural Nine in the day's feature, with only one more back to Size, who landed a double.
The job left to do in such a short space of time is by no means easy for Fownes and Size, but they would have gained some heart when Moore was unable to reply, with his best result Johnson, who was just touched off in the final race.
Caspar Fownes was handing out 'ride of the month' awards to Jacky Tong Chi-kit, after Tong's navigation to get Natural Nine home in the Skol Cup (1,650m) from the outside draw.
'We had some frustrating barrier draws on the card today and the outside of the field on the dirt is never a great place to be,' said Fownes. 'I said to Jacky that we didn't have too many options and he'd have to ride Natural Nine for luck, but what a great job he's done.'
Tong took Natural Nine across behind the field from the gates, found the rail, then burrowed up to third horse back along the rail before the runners had left the straight the first time.
'I was lucky. The leader, Silver Sun, kicked away at the top of the straight and that left a gap for the horses following him along the rail to come through - if Silver Sun hadn't done that, I would have had nowhere to go,' Tong smiled.
But the gap did come and Natural Nine took it strongly to overhaul Silver Sun in another training triumph for Fownes with a multiple bleeder.
'Sadly today, we lost Baazigar, who bled for the third time, but Natural Nine has had two bleeds and he was still able to win again today and Baazigar won after his second attack,' Fownes said.
'So it's a credit to the Jockey Club for changing the rules on how many strikes before bleeders are out. We've shown that they can get back to winning form after a second episode.
'I've put plenty of time into Natural Nine, he trialled well on Tuesday on the surface, and if he had drawn a barrier I would have been confident but I'm just happy to get the win,' he added.
Size's pair came from different ends of the spectrum early in the day, with frustrating Energetic Boy (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) breaking the ice at start 28 in the Class Five 1,800m on the dirt after promising Dr Possible (Weichong Marwing) seemingly did the impossible in the race prior.
Dr Possible was at liberal odds after pulling up lame as red-hot favourite at his last start and appeared in trouble rounding the home turn when the pace looked too much for him, but Dr Possible pulled out the form he had shown two starts ago winning at Sha Tin, swamping his rivals in the final 100m.
Energetic Boy has been a model of consistency since joining Size but still hadn't been able to break through and win, however, the losing streak ended albeit narrowly with a centimetre perfect ride from Lai.
'I think I have only had one ride before for John Size, so a 50 per cent strike rate is not bad,' Lai laughed.