Fownes contender given Thumbs Up
Caspar Fownes doesn't especially care whether it rains or not before Sunday's $14 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup but the trainer will be keenly checking the weather reports all the same.
Rising eight-year-old Thumbs Up has not cracked it for a Group One since his Classic Mile in 2009, but 13 subsequent runs at the elite level have turned up five seconds, a third, fourth and fifth. Fownes and jockey Brett Prebble believe this Sunday offers a real chance to break through again, with the gelding's biggest obstacle seeming to be under control as long as the weather holds.
'He's an amazing horse to have had a career as good as it has been considering his problems with internal bleeding,' said Fownes yesterday. 'There is no telling how good he could have been if not for that. He always scopes with some blood in his lungs, even now when he seems pretty good, so it doesn't take much to set him off. I'm just hoping that the weather stays like it is - I don't worry about the heat but I would worry if we got a cold snap. That seems to be the thing that sets the bleeders off.'
Some rainy weather is forecast in the days ahead but temperatures are forecast to stay above 20 degrees, and that should suit Thumbs Up and Prebble, who chose the old gelding over Irian for the race.
'I'm not convinced that Irian is going as well as he can right now and not as well as he was when I won on him and then ran second to Snow Fairy,' Prebble said. 'On the other hand, I reckon Caspar has got old Thumbs Up flying and he would have been hard to get off after the way he won his last start. He just feels like Cas has the internal issue ironed out and the horse is on his A game - and that's good enough to win it.'
Prebble said he didn't have to look far for an international Group One winning form reference after finishing a brave second in the Hong Kong Vase in December on Thumbs Up.
'The winner, Dunaden couldn't have been any fitter,' he said. 'He'd just won a Melbourne Cup. Thumbs Up is due to win one of these big ones and this looks one he can win.'
Prebble said he would not be concerned about the apparent lack of speed in the QE II Cup as long he could draw a good gate.
'I'll be sending my wife Alix to do the draw - I pull out nothing but bad marbles so I've red-carded myself for life,' Fownes revealed.
On the track yesterday, the only foreign visitor to make an appearance was Japan's Rulership, who had a leg stretch on the all-weather.
Number of times Thumbs Up has finished second in 13 Group Ones since winning the Classic Mile in 2009