Fair Trade eyes tilt at classic after return from injury
Fair Trade has always been an extraordinary horse - but now astute trainer Caspar Fownes is about to ask his galloper to take it to the next level alongside stablemate Super Satin in the Group One Hong Kong Derby.
Fownes has had to pick his mark carefully with the talented four-year-old, who resumed from injury to score a dominant win in the Chinese New Year Cup (1,400m) and maintain his unbeaten record from four starts.
Formerly trained in Australia by Cranbourne horseman Mick Kent, Fair Trade was produced for a debut win over 1,400m in a three-year-old open event at Melbourne's premier Flemington racecourse.
He then claimed the Colin Hayes Stakes over the same course to rack up a Group Three win by more than three lengths at his second start.
But, after making the successful transition to Hong Kong racing with a first-up win, disaster struck and the gelding sustained an injury to his off-side fore sesamoid.
'I didn't trial him coming into this because I wanted to keep him fresh and bring him through nicely towards the Derby,' Fownes said. 'It has had to be a slightly rushed preparation to get him to the Derby, but it is his only turn at his four year old season so you have to give him a chance to do it.
'The plan was to make him an entry for the Gold Cup over 2,000 metres, but if he hadn't won today I would have kept him back to the easier 1,800-metre race on the same day.
'The Gold Cup is a race that may not suit him second-up, but it is a vital lead-up for him to be fit enough to have a real crack at the Derby on March 14,' he added.
Fair Trade provided the 400th winner in Hong Kong for premiership leading jockey Brett Prebble, who had a lean day at the office but maintained his 10-win margin over Douglas Whyte in the jockeys' standings.
Fownes was also pleased with the effort of his Derby Trial runner-up Super Satin, despite being disappointed to have missed victory in the Group Two feature by just a neck.
'He's come through his grades really well and will be there in the Derby as a genuine top three chance,' Fownes said.
'He'll go straight into the Derby now without another run, because he has been up a long time now and I want to get him there without pushing him over the top in terms of his preparation.'
Fownes celebrated the Chinese New Year with a double after Mark Up steamed down the centre of the track to claim the Prosperity Handicap (1,600m) earlier in the day.
'He is relatively lightly raced and I will step him up in distance now and I think he can continue to progress,' he said.
Mark Up was guided to a second consecutive win by jockey Aaron Gryder, who admitted the four-year-old is becoming one of his favourites in Hong Kong.
'They are always your favourites when they are winning races,' the American quipped.
On the way up
The total Hong Kong career wins that Brett Prebble has achieved following his triumph on Fair Trade: 400