Heavyweights ready to take on world
Alan Aitken and Michael Cox
Hong Kong trainers Caspar Fownes and John Moore were both flying positive flags yesterday as they gear up for assaults on major races in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming weeks that promise a boom international start to the new season.
Fownes flies out today to supervise final preparations for Lucky Nine and Green Birdie as he targets the HK$6 million first prize in Sunday's Centaur Stakes at Hanshin in Japan, while John Moore's Melbourne raiders, Mighty High and Silver Grecian, arrived safe and well just over two weeks before their Australian debuts.
Fownes will assess first hand what the pair need to have them on their mark for the Centaur, for which Lucky Nine looks certain to be one the favourites.
'They have both eaten well, and are drinking well since they arrived so their condition is not a real concern,' Fownes said yesterday. 'Their body weights are right, but I want to see them myself. If they look like they might need a more positive workout on Thursday to top them off then that's what they will have, but I won't decide on any work for them until I get there.'
Fownes said both horses 'will be in good shape to run well first-up' but will have something left to take into their proposed second run, the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama in three weeks.
'They each had good solid trials before they got on the plane and will be fit enough to win but not bottomed out,' he said. 'A few people have said Lucky Nine didn't beat Good Words that easily in the trial, but anyone who thinks he didn't trial well is underestimating Good Words. Lucky Nine is a quality horse and will be right in the finish on Sunday with even luck, and I won't be surprised if Green Birdie runs well at a big price.'
Fownes was surprised to learn Lucky Nine would be the topweight on Sunday under the set weights, with penalties for Group One winners, but was unperturbed. 'Even though he has some weight to carry, the weights are all quite high and he will concede no more than nine pounds to the lightest weighted.'
Positive reports were the order of the day as the Moore-trained Mighty High and Silver Grecian were the first foreign horses to arrive for Melbourne's rich spring carnival and the trainer won't be far behind.
The pair touched down in Melbourne yesterday and Moore said his vet, Ben Mason, was happy after inspecting them at Werribee International Horse Centre.
'The reports were they travelled very well,' Moore said. 'We'll monitor their progress now with respect to their eating and how they do, and whether we do some walking or trotting on Wednesday.'
Also on the flight was retired sprinter One World, heading to a stud career in Australia, and Moore said his presence would have helped the horses stay calm. 'They tend to mate up a bit and a horse on his own would get upset. This makes it a bit of a family affair,' he said.
Caulfield and Melbourne Cups-bound Mighty High will contest a 1,700m handicap at Caulfield on September 24 first-up, while Silver Grecian will run in the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1,400m) on the same day. The duo are under the care of Moore's son, George, but the trainer will be on hand tomorrow as he arrives to check on the progress of sprinter Happy Zero.
Happy Zero, who has been back in work with John Hawkes and his sons, is due to resume racing at Moonee Valley on Saturday in the Group Three Ian McEwen Stakes (1,000m). It will be the gelding's first run since failing at Royal Ascot in June last year but plans are to bring him back to Moore's yard for the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint at Sha Tin in November if he regains form.