Star duo give Fownes reason to be confident
Trainer Caspar Fownes has left no stone unturned ahead of Sunday's HK$12 million Centaur Stakes (1,200m) at Hanshin racecourse after giving Lucky Nine and Green Birdie solid final workouts yesterday morning.
Fownes instructed his travelling assistant and work rider, Dale Bussey, to give each of the horses a proper hit-out in the final stages of their work, and he sent them to the line strongly.
'Lucky Nine had a strong gallop to get him motivated and mentally tuned to race and I asked Dale to make sure Green Birdie got right to the line in the last 400m of his work, too,' Fownes said.
'I think both horses are in good form and I'm confident they'll race well. It is a little on the short side for Lucky Nine, but he's a horse with great potential and should handle the trip while he's still fresh.'
Body weights published by the Japan Racing Association suggest Lucky Nine has been well-prepped, if accurate, with a weight of 480kg (1,056 pounds), the lightest the gelding has weighed in since being imported to Hong Kong. Green Birdie was heavier than usual at 1,095 pounds.
Barriers for the likely 15-strong field will be announced this morning, but the dangers among the local horses appear clear cut - last year's winner Dasher Go Go, the improving filly A Shin Virgo and San Carlo, runner-up in the Group One Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March.
Green Birdie was unlucky behind Dasher Go Go last year, giving him nine pounds at the weights and the pair race off the same handicap this time, though Dasher Go Go is reportedly stronger as a four-year-old. He won two Group Three sprints in March and June and has assembled a good Hanshin record, winning three of his five starts there.
A Shin Virgo has been the find of 2011 among the Japanese sprinters, breaking into stakes class and winning the straight 1,000m Ibis Summer Dash comfortably, before racing keenly when stepped up to 1,200m in the Kitakyushu Kinen and finishing a close third as favourite.
Racing fans who have yet to catch up on the many pre-season trials will get their chance before Sunday's Sha Tin meeting.
A pre-season trials show with interviews and analysis will air on iCable channel 18 tonight from 5pm and on ATV World at 11.20pm, after the late news.
The racing preview show, Racing To Win, returns tomorrow at 5pm on iCable channel 18, 7.30pm on channel 64 and on ATV World at 11.20pm, following the news.