Last season's Hong Kong Derby-winning trainer Caspar Fownes was reluctant to saddle lightly raced Let Me Handle It with too big a reputation at Sha Tin yesterday but keeping a lid on his enthusiasm for the four-year-old was the hard part.
The first leg of a double for Fownes, who also won the Skol Cup with Blue Sky 30 minutes later, Let Me Handle It (Brett Doyle) simply demolished a Class Three field over 1,600m to add his name to the list of big-race aspirants in the stable.
'I've been excited by this horse from the first day,' Fownes said. 'Really, his owner is one of my best friends in Hong Kong and I really think that we've found the right horse. I hate to say he's a Derby horse this far out from the race, but I do believe he is going to be that standard of horse when we do see the best of him. He just has to keep doing what he's doing and he will be in the race for sure.'
Let Me Handle It was forced to undergo two veterinary inspections before being cleared to run yesterday, but nobody would have guessed as the son of High Chaparral rounded them up and put them away in a few strides, coming from last to win by a soft five lengths.
'At the end of last season, he was new and green and that's something every horse has to go through,' Fownes said.
'He had the raw ability but didn't really understand what it was about and still today, he has ducked in sharply as he went to the front. He's still learning but he's got all this talent. And what really excites me is that, when you look at his pedigree, he really should want something more than mile before he shows us his best. So, if he can stay and he keeps that big turn of foot that he's shown today, then we have something.'
With 2010 Derby winner Super Satin, 2009 Derby runner-up Thumbs Up and sprinter Green Birdie heading the Group One team, Fownes believes he has the depth at the top end to keep John Moore honest in the race for the top stake-money earnings.
'We all know that John has been the leader there for a few years now and I'm sure he'll be tough to beat again, but this season I do feel I've got quite a few horses who can win a big race, not just one or two,' said Fownes, who has come out of the gates flying with eight wins from the first five meetings.
'Horses like Young Elite and Fair Trade could easily claim a big one if everything falls into place on the day and so could Lucky Nine and there are others, like Let Me Handle It, who could improve to that level during the season. There's a lot of depth in my better horses, so I hope we might be able to give John a race.'
His other winner, Blue Sky (Brett Prebble), managed to win the trophy event and take his earnings to just under HK$4.5 million - not bad for a relatively unheralded purchase. 'It's fair to say that he didn't look anything special in Melbourne, where he'd only won a bush maiden, so he has done a good job to get to where he has,' Fownes said. 'He was very nervous early and then improved bit by bit through last season and here he is now winning off a 102 rating.
'I do think he's probably better at Happy Valley, where he doesn't get himself as worked up before a race but, at that triple-figure rating, my hands are tied as far as where I can run him.'
Blue Sky gave Prebble some welcome relief after going winless midweek and again for most of yesterday's card, holding off Chater Way and Amigo in a driving finish.
Favourite Cerise Cherry didn't get much peace in the lead and trainer Derek Cruz said he felt rain during the day had also contributed to the gelding's close-up fourth.