Yiu and Fownes strike while the iron is still hot
Trainers Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and Caspar Fownes may have started a new training trend yesterday, successfully backing up horses from mid-week assignments at Happy Valley to grab weekend success at Sha Tin.
Yiu, in particular, cleverly got the better of the handicapper by returning Fortune Winner (Jeff Lloyd) to the races just four days after he had romped in at the Valley.
Following a light and problem-plagued season in 2010-11 after suffering a heart irregularity, Fortune Winner had tumbled down the ratings from Class Three to the middle of Class Four before the victory and the handicapper responded to his return to form with a 10-point rating hike to take him back to 62 and out of Class Four.
But with Fortune Winner having been entered for the all-weather 1,650m Class Four on a mark of 52 before the Valley, he was eligible for only the compulsory seven-pound penalty on the published weights, keeping him in the grade and Yiu ran him and took advantage of that loophole.
Despite working hard to get to the lead, Fortune Winner booted clear on the home turn, then held off the late charge of veteran Golden Treasure over the final stages.
'That was a good tough win. We ran along OK but he is probably a little better than that grade because he can still give you a kick. His early speed to lead surprised me really, because on Wednesday night when Zac Purton rode him, he didn't have the legs to get the front. He should handle Class Three, maybe over a little further,' said Lloyd, who was later suspended for careless riding over his efforts to get to the rail early in the race.
Fownes has long been a strong proponent of the quick back-up for his horses, with many runners coming back within seven days for good results.
Though Topping Light (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) has had more than his share of physical issues, Fownes elected to strike while the iron was hot. Topping Light came with an irresistible burst in the final 200m to overwhelm his major rivals, each of whom were having their first outing for the season, and he took the prize by almost three lengths.
'He's two from two now over the straight course,' said Fownes.
'Topping Light has been a really terrific horse - not many Hong Kong horses would have a record like his. In 21 starts, he has missed the top four once, and that's despite the fact he has had both a tendon injury and a suspensory. He would have been better than Class Three without those issues but he is very comfortable at the moment, so that's why I thought the time was ripe to back him up from Wednesday's run into what looked a fairly modest sort of race.'