Drop back to 1,000m 'big test' for Lucky Nine
Even though Lucky Nine has thrived since his Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint win last month, trainer Caspar Fownes says he will be vulnerable when he drops back to 1,000 metres for the first time in tomorrow's Group One Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup against a host of straight-track specialists.
Lucky Nine takes on the Sha Tin straight course for the first time in the first leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series, where Fownes says his five-year-old, who is better suited over 1,200m and 1,400m, will need some luck.
'It's going to be a big test for him,' Fownes said. 'In 1,000m races up the straight here, the specialist horses tend to perform the best. He will really come into his own in the final two legs of the series over the longer trips, but I'm sure he'll still be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday. He is in great condition.'
The Speed Series continues with the Chairman's Sprint Prize (1,200m) on February 5 and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) on March 4.
Lucky Nine is unbeaten on straight tracks, winning a race in Ireland over an undulating 1,200m course at Naas at his third start as a two-year-old. Fownes said tomorrow was a different ball game and nominated Sacred Kingdom, who has won the last two runnings of the race, and Little Bridge as dangers.
Sacred Kingdom has won eight times and finished second on three occasions in 12 tries over the course and distance, while Little Bridge is four from five.
Even Group One newcomer Eagle Regiment established a five-from-eight record at 1,000m, never finishing worse than second, as he moved through the grades.
What would give Lucky Nine a chance, Fownes believes, is genuine speed up front. 'If there is he will truck into it and he'll reel off a good sectional, that's what he always does,' he said. 'I've kept him as fresh as possible and it will be like a trial for him. He's going to be relaxed early. Hopefully they will go hard and he'll pick up and finish off strong.'
After a desperately unlucky early season trip to Japan, from which he returned 'in tatters', Fownes says his horse has turned a corner.
'He just keeps improving and is going forward. He has come on in leaps and bounds,' Fownes said. 'We're going to have a lot of fun with him. He was a mess when we came back from Japan but he just keeps getting better.'
Lucky Nine will be ridden by Tye Angland for the first time, replacing the suspended Brett Prebble.
Despite his British bloodlines, Fownes says a rain-affected track would be another first. 'He's always copped nice tracks since he's been here, so it will be interesting to see how he goes on it if there is a bit of sting out of the ground,' he said.
- N umber of times Lucky Nine has raced over 1,000m.
- Sacred Kingdom has eight wins from 12 over the course & distance